New figures from the National Fraud Authority (NFA) estimate that every year in the UK identity fraud costs more than £2.7billion and affects over 1.8million people.
At least £1.9billion of this is the amount gained by the fraudster. That means that on average, fraudsters gain over £1000 from every stolen identity.
Stolen identities are used by fraudsters to obtain a wide variety of goods, services and benefits in the victims’ name; to fraudulently open bank accounts and to commit other frauds.
Criminals also use false or stolen identities to help them commit a wide range of crimes, from evading detection by law enforcement to enabling people trafficking and terrorism.
These figures come from the first ever UK ID Crime Strategic Threat Assessment which was completed by the NFA in conjunction with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. The £2.7billion does not include loss from newly created fake identities.
Dr Ber! nard Herdan, Chief Executive, National Fraud Authority said: “Stolen and false identities are a significant enabler of crime and this issue demands a co-ordinated response across Government and the private sector. The work we’ve undertaken has allowed us to gain a better understanding of the issue of identity crime. We are now working actively with our partners to improve the UK’s response to identity related crime and help reduce its devastating impact.”
Losses from identity theft and false identities don’t just affect the individual, but also hit the public and private sectors. The NFA will be working closely with others to co-ordinate the response to reduce the impact of this criminality on the public purse.
Criminals often look to fraudulently obtain genuine documents such as birth certificates, passports and driving licences. However, they also look for other information which helps steal your identity such as utility bills; online passwords; ac! count numbers; and personal identity information which many people sti ll put on social networking sites.
As part of National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, the NFA is reminding individuals and businesses how important it is to take responsibility for protecting their own identity. In very serious cases, it can take you 200 hours to repair the damage done to your identity by these criminals – in working hours, that’s equivalent to a year’s annual leave.
Here are some simple steps everyone can take to help keep their identity safe.
* Don’t throw out anything with your name, address or financial details without shredding it first.
* Check your bank and credit card statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the financial institution concerned.
* If you’re expecting a statement and it doesn’t arrive, tell your bank or Credit Card Company.
* Get regular copies of your credit report from a credit reference agency.
* Make sure your computer has up to date! anti virus software installed.
* Make sure you use all the privacy settings available on social networking sites – but don’t put too much personal information up there.
* If you move house, always get Royal Mail to redirect your post.
* Don’t ignore bills, invoices or receipts for things you haven’t bought or services you haven’t asked for – contact the company immediately.
* When you register to vote, tick the box to say you don’t want to be included in the edited electoral register – that means your details can’t be sold on.
Don’t stay silent. For more advice or to report a fraud, visit www.actionfraud.org.uk or call 0300 123 2040. By working together and speaking out against fraud we can make the UK more hostile to fraudsters.