Identity fraud reaching 'epidemic' levels in the UK

23/08/17

The UK saw a record 89,000 cases of identity fraud in the first six months of the year, according to Cifas.

Cifas said the crimes were taking place almost exclusively online, and that the vast amount of personal data available on the internet and as a result of data breaches “is only making it easier for the fraudster”.

Simon Dukes, the Cifas chief executive, said: “We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year, now reaching epidemic levels, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day … Criminals are relentlessly targeting consumers and businesses, and we must all be alert to the threat and do more to protect personal information.”

Identity fraud is one of the fastest-growing types of cybercrime, and experts say criminals are using increasingly sophisticated tactics. Fraudsters have increasingly been hacking into email accounts and then posing as a builder, solicitor or other tradesperson that the consumer has legitimately employed. Some customers have lost considerable sums after being duped into sending money to the bank accounts of criminals.

In many cases, victims do not even realise they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy, or they experience problems with their credit rating when applying for a mortgage or loan.

To carry out this kind of crime successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address and bank. Fraudsters get hold of this in a variety of ways, from stealing letters and hacking emails to obtaining data on the “dark web”, and exploiting some people’s willingness to share every detail of their life on social media.

Experts say that the public needs to change their behaviour to prevent such attacks.

Phil Beckett, Managing Director of Global Disputes and Investigations at Alvarez and Marsal, said: “The UK anti-fraud organisation Cifas recently released statistics highlighting that identities were being stolen at the rate of almost 500 a day. This is a truly shocking statistic and highlights how much at risk we are all in in today’s online world."

"More importantly than anything is not to get complacent or be ignorant of the threat.  A good starting point on this is to perform a holistic vulnerability assessment based on one of the well-defined frameworks that provides an organisation with a benchmarked assessment of their controls and readiness as well as a path to improvement."

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