Identity fraud in the UK at 'epidemic' levels as cases rise 5% – report

Crooks now operate 'almost exclusively' online

There were almost 90,000 cases of identify fraud recorded in the first six months of 2017 – 5 per cent higher than the first half of last year, according to data released today.

Fraud prevention firm Cifas, which released the figures, said identity fraud was rising at record levels and now accounts for more than half of all fraud reported by its members.

"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," Cifas chief exec Simon Dukes said.

These frauds are "taking place almost exclusively online", he said, with online crime comprising 83 per cent of the total in the most recent figures.

There has also been a shift in the types of product targeted by identity fraudsters this year.

Although plastic cards and bank accounts remain the most common products – with 29,852 and 24,759 reported cases, respectively – these figures represent declines of 12 and 14 per cent.

Meanwhile, there has been a 61 per cent increase in telecoms-related fraud, rising to 9,097, and a 56 per cent increase in online retail, rising to 5,097.

The figures also give an indication of the ages of the fraud victims, although not all cases recorded a date of birth, and some frauds involve an entirely fake identity.

The overall profile of fraud by age group remained the same as in the first half of 2016, with most of the cases in the 31-40 and 41-50 brackets (24 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively).

However, under-21s saw a big increase in identity fraud this year, jumping 50 per cent, from 684 to 1,023 cases in the first half of 2017, compared with 2016.

Glenn Maleary, head of the economic crime division at the City of London police, said the increase in online fraud was "no surprise", adding that increased use of social media allows criminals easier access to a wealth of personal information.

Dukes echoed this statement, noting that the "vast amounts" of data held online – and exposed to breaches – is "only making it easier for the fraudster".

Dukes added: "For smaller and medium-sized businesses in particular, they must focus on educating staff on good cybersecurity behaviours and raise awareness of the social-engineering techniques employed by fraudsters. Relying solely on new fraud prevention technology is not enough." ®

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