According to the latest Fraudscape report published by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, incidents of recorded frauds increased by 25% last year. In total, there were 276,993 frauds recorded in 2014 compared to 221,075 in 2013.
The single biggest threat continues to be identity fraud. 41% of all frauds recorded in 2014 fall into this category. Identity fraud is when criminals abuse personal data or identity details to impersonate an innocent victim or to create fictitious identities in order to steal money.
Key identity fraud trends in 2014 are as follows:
*113,839 identity frauds were recorded, representing a 5% increase on 2013
*The average age for identity victims is 46, while men were 1.7 times more likely than women to have their identity stolen
*Young adults are increasingly becoming targets. The number of young adult identity fraud victims aged between 21 and 30 has increased by 51.7% since 2011, up from 9,789 to 14,850. This suggests that as ‘digitally savvy’ young people enter their twenties and increase their access to financial products, they’re then increasingly at risk
*Older groups are still at risk. There was a 15% recorded rise in the number of identity fraud victims aged over 55, with 25,346 victims in 2014 compared with 22,004 in 2013
The rise in identity fraud was accompanied by a significant drop in takeover of accounts (where fraudsters hack into or ‘take over’ existing accounts). These trends underline criminals’ ability to adapt. As it has become harder to take over existing accounts due to better security measures, so criminals have shifted their attentions towards using other people’s identities or creating entirely false identities in order to open new accounts.
By working across sectors, Cifas member organisations prevented an estimated £1 billion worth of fraud in 2014.
Cifas fraud cases are streamed daily to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which is run by the City of London Police, and create crime packages for possible further investigation by law enforcement agencies.
Increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals
Simon Dukes, CEO at Cifas, has commented on the report’s findings.
“The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals,” stated Dukes. “This is crime at an industrial scale. 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.”
City of London Police Commander Steve Head, who’s the ACPO lead for Identity Crime, explained: “The percentage rise in fraud recorded by Cifas is very much in line with what we’re seeing for Action Fraud for 2014-2015. The reason for this is likely to be two-fold – fraud and cyber fraud are continuing to increase while individuals and businesses are becoming more aware of both the opportunity and the need for them to report to the relevant authorities when they’ve fallen victim to a scam.”
Head continued: “If we’re to see a drop in reported fraud this year we really need to get to grips with the problem of identity fraud, both as a crime in its own right and as a major facilitator for other types of fraud. The way to do this is by both targeting the offenders and having law enforcement, Government and the private sector working together to raise awareness of the threat and provide clear guidance on how to prevent it.”
Recommendations for 2015-2016
The Cifas report makes a number of recommendations for 2015-2016:
*The UK needs a national measure of fraud losses and fraud levels
Government needs to work with industry to re-establish this measure. Until we understand the scale of the loss, society cannot truly tackle it.
*Greater research is needed into the exact point at which data is compromised
Cifas members cannot always know at what point their customers’ identities have been compromised while individuals often don’t know themselves, yet this information would be vital in focusing prevention efforts.
*Further research into the involvement of organised criminals in fraud
This year’s data provides further evidence that organised criminals are behind numerous fraud trends. More research is needed to verify and better understand the involvement of organised criminals in fraud and the extent to which money obtained through fraud is used to fund further criminal activity.
*Co-ordinated education and awareness campaign on fraud led jointly by Government and industry
People of all ages need to be ‘more savvy’ to both frauds and fraudsters in order to better protect themselves. Fraud trends suggest that some may be allowing their details and accounts to be used by criminals without a full understanding of the seriousness of the crime.
*Comprehensive review of the sentencing guidelines for fraud
The public must have faith that, when frauds are reported, the criminals are punished appropriately. This will also encourage people to report fraud, adding to our overall understanding of the UK’s fraud profile.
The Cifas report is based on fraud cases from 245 Cifas members. Cifas members span a range of sectors and the data is a sound barometer for fraud trends in the UK. However, it’s not the full picture and the true numbers of frauds and victims will be higher.