Identity fraud is soaring to “epidemic levels” with almost 500 cases a day reported, it has been warned.
There were more than 89,000 cases in the first six months of 2017 in the UK – a record number and up 5% from the same period last year, according to the fraud prevention service Cifas.
If found 83% of frauds were perpetrated online.
Identify fraud involves a criminal misrepresenting themselves to a bank or business to take out a loan, receive a credit card, or buy a product.
The innocent person that the fraudster pretends to be often does not know anything about the crime until they receive the bills from the bank or company.
In the vast majority of cases, fraudsters have been able to claim to be the other individual because of their access to the victim’s personal information – including their name, date of birth and address.
Fraudsters get hold of this information in a variety of ways, from hacking companies that are not holding the data securely, through to stealing mail and exploiting personal information on social media.
Simon Dukes, the chief executive at Cifas, 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.
“These frauds are taking place almost exclusively online. The vast amounts of personal data that is available either online or through data breaches is only making it easier for the fraudster.”
The Government is introducing a new Data Protection Bill in the Autumn which will allow the watchdog to issue heavy fines to companies that fail to protect the public’s data and expose them to fraudsters.
Often in identity fraud cases the victim is not actually liable for the financial loss, but the distress caused to them can be severe, as can the economic burden on businesses.
The head of the City of London Police’s economic crime directorate warned that “it has become normal for people to publish personal details about themselves on social media and on other online platforms which makes it easier than ever for a fraudster to steal someone’s identity”.
Detective Superintendent Glenn Maleary said: “Be careful who you give your information to, always consider whether it is necessary to part with those details.
“Cyber security is becoming increasingly important and we urge everyone both at home and at work to ensure that they have the right security settings on all of their devices.”