National Identity Fraud Prevention week kicked off in the UK on Monday. The scheme marks an attempt to raise public awareness of the threat of identity fraud, reckoned to be one of the UK's fastest growing financial crimes.
One in ten Brits have already been a victim of identity fraud scams, which involve crooks impersonating victims and establishing fraudulent lines of credit. Businesses can also be fraudulently impersonating in much the same way.
As well as leaving victims out of pocket, the crime can damage their credit ratings. Identity fraud costs the UK economy approximately £1.2bn every year, according to stats from the UK Identity Fraud Steering Committee.
Cifas, the UK's fraud prevention service, reports more than 59,000 victims of impersonation have been recorded in the first nine months of 2009 - a 36 per cent increase from the same period last year. More than half the account takeovers recorded affected victims' credit card accounts.
Meanwhile, mobile phone takeovers have more than doubled from last year.
For consumers, guarding against ID fraud involves practicing safe computing (eg running up-to-date antivirus software) as well as being careful about destroying financially sensitive information, such as bank statements. Business and government also have a role to play.
Stonewood Group called on the government to establish tougher penalties for Data Protection Act (DPA) breaches. A survey of 1,000 Brits commissioned by the encryption hardware firm found that almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) wanted to make it a criminal offence for a government department or business to lose data as a result of negligence. ®