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ID theft in UK hits record high as crooks shift to more vulnerable targets

Less checked online services bear brunt

Identity fraud in Blighty hit a record high of 174,523 incidents last year – and the vast majority of it happened online.

According to the latest report by fraud prevention service Cifas, ID theft rose 1 per cent on last year. However, that is an increase of 125 per cent on 2007, the Fraudscape (PDF) report shows.

Eight out of 10 cases took place online, and Cifas noted that the increase came from fraudsters targeting telecoms, online shopping and insurance – rather than bank account or credit card fraud as in previous years.

It said this "retargeting" by fraudsters can be seen as a shift towards exploiting more accessible products such as mobile phone contracts, online retail accounts, retail credit loans and short-term loans, all of which are less likely to be subject to the same strict checks as bank accounts and credit cards.

Separate research has found that fraudsters operating on the dark web could buy a person's entire identity for just £820.

Thieves are gaining information by targeting individuals directly through phishing, malware attacks, social media, or other forms of social engineering, the report said.

According to the research, bank accounts bearing marks of money mule activity – where folk are recruited online to unwittingly transfer cash from the proceeds of crime – were up 11 per cent. There were 32,000 such cases in 2017.

Youngsters are most at risk – there was a 27 per cent growth in people aged 14-24 being recruited as mules.

More than a third of bank account takeover victims were over 60 years old. That was put down to the increasing popularity of online banking, and more fraudsters phoning victims claiming to be from the bank and asking to "verify" online passwords.

However, organisations prevented more than £1.3bn in fraud losses through non-competitive data sharing, the report added.

Conor Burns MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming, said:

"Fraud is the 21st century volume crime and the issue is not going to go away. With more and more people sharing data, transacting, setting up businesses, dating and chatting online this trend is only going to continue." ®


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