UK identity theft affected 125,000 people last year, says Cifas

After a drop in 2013, fraud rose 25 percent in 2014 with identity theft still the biggest menace

Identity crime continues to take a huge toll on UK citizens with 125,000 people becoming victims of this type of fraud in 2014, Fraud Prevention Service Cifas has reported.

After crunching numbers from 245 member organisations, Cifas recorded 276,993 frauds of all types, including identity theft, account takeover, insurance fraud, application fraud, misuse of facility fraud (e.g. tampering with cheques), and asset conversion fraud (e.g. selling on a car bought on credit).

This was a 25 percent rise on 2013's fraud total of 221,075 which the organisation said it believed was a considerable under-estimate because many frauds went unreported or were not discovered, for example 'everyday' scams such as insurance fraud.

The overall numbers seem fairly stable over recent years - in 2012 there were 248,325 recorded frauds for instance - but some types of fraud appear to fluctuate over time.

What is not in doubt is the significance of identity crime, which in 2014 was the single largest category of fraud with 41 percent of the total.

The commonest type of identity fraud was credit and debit card fraud with nearly 50,000 incidents followed by 24,000 examples of misused bank accounts, and 13,000 bogus loans.

One bright spot was online retail identity fraud, which fell by 63 percent to just under 7,000 incidents and against mobile phone operators which saw a 42 percent fall to around 2,000 incidents. Credit and debit card frauds also fell by 48 percent to around 8,000.

Cifas identifies several fraud 'hotspots' although the cities named are those one might expect - London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, and a couple one might not, Leeds and Leicester.

The average age of identity theft victims was 46 with men 1.7 times more likely to suffer this kind of fraud than women for reasons that might be connected to having more assets or income.

"The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals. This is crime at an industrial scale," said Cifas chief executive, Simon Dukes.

"We need to redouble our efforts to fight fraud across sectors and to educate consumers and people of all ages. Fraudsters don't operate in silos, and neither can we. We also need better data - this data is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scale of fraud in the UK."

The fact that in the last decade fraud has grown from a cottage industry into an organised criminal activity is a recurring theme of the Cifas report as is the likelihood that its proceeds fuel other types of crime.

Cifas feeds its data on a daily basis to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

The organisation was urging a review of the sentencing guidelines for fraud which would discourage low-level frauds such as those against insurance firms.

According to Experian's Uk director of identity theft and fraud, Nick Mothershaw, identity theft now made up 52 percent of all fraud cases it detected.

"The main driver of identity theft over the past year has been current account fraud. Identity fraud now accounts for 47 per cent of all detected current-account fraud," he said.

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