Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released new figures showing that identity fraud has continued to rise at unprecedented levels during the first six months of 2017. A record 89,000 identity frauds were recorded, which is up 5% from last year. Representing over half of all fraud recorded by the UK’s not-for-profit fraud data sharing organisation, 83% of identity frauds were perpetrated online.
The latest figures from Cifas show that there has been a sharp rise in identity fraudsters applying for loans, online retail, telecoms and insurance products. Although the number of identity fraud attempts against bank accounts and plastic cards has fallen, these still account for more than half of all identity fraud cases.
The majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be an innocent individual in order to buy a product or take out a loan in their name. Often, victims don’t even realise that they’ve been targeted until a bill arrives for something they didn’t buy or they experience problems with their credit rating.
To carry out this kind of fraud successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank details and with whom they hold accounts. Fraudsters access such detail in a variety of ways, from stealing mail through to hacking, obtaining data on The Dark Web, exploiting personal information on social media or through ‘social engineering’ (whereupon innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a trusted retailer).
Simon Dukes, CEO of Cifas, said: “We’ve seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year such that they’re 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 amount of personal data that’s available either online or through data breaches is only making it easier for the fraudster.”
Dukes continued: “Criminals are relentlessly targeting consumers and businesses. We must all be alert to the threat and do more to protect personal information. For smaller and medium-sized businesses in particular, they must focus on educating staff in relation to good cyber security behaviours and raise awareness of the social engineering techniques employed by fraudsters. Relying solely on new fraud prevention technology simply isn’t enough.”
Detective Superintendent Glenn Maleary, head of the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Directorate, stated: “Identify fraud continues to be a significant issue in law enforcement and the new figures which Cifas has issued come as no surprise. The more our lives move online, the easier it becomes for fraudsters to steal our identity. 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.”
Maleary went on to observe: “The figures show that both businesses and consumers are targeted. It’s therefore important that people commit to protecting themselves in all aspects of their lives. Be careful who you give your information to and always consider whether it’s 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 in place on all of their devices.”
In conclusion, Maleary outlined: “We also urge consumers and businesses to be conscious of identify fraudsters and to use our protection advice to help stop them in their tracks. We continue to work with banks, retailers and other members of industry to disrupt the fraudsters’ activities. However, we also realise it’s our responsibility to help advise consumers and businesses around these types of issues. We urge anyone who’s interested in finding out about the latest fraud trends to sign up to our Action Fraud alerts.”