ID theft is up by a third
Identity theft has risen by a third over the past year, according to UK fraud prevention service Cifas.
Figures for the first quarter of 2015 also revealed that it accounted for almost half of all fraud committed in the UK.
Identity fraud occurs when criminals abuse personal data to impersonate a victim or create fictitious identities to illegally obtain goods and services.
There were 32,058 recorded victims of identity fraud during the three-month period, up from from 24,482 a year earlier.
People aged between 21 and 30 were increasingly targeted, with 3,970 members of this age group falling victim in the first three months of 2015. They accounted for 16% of all victims and the total figure represented a 26% increase on the previous year.
Credit card risk
Simon Dukes, Cifas chief executive, said: "What these figures show is that identity fraud continues to be the most serious fraud threat and that the first quarter of the year has been a very profitable one for organised identity criminals."
While 41% of all identity frauds were related to credit cards, Cifas said that bank accounts (27% of all identity frauds), were criminals' preferred targets. It added that more than 80% of all identity fraud in the first quarter happened online.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Clark, from the City of London Police, added: "Identity fraud is at the heart of much of today's criminality, acting as a key facilitator for a host of other types of offences. To stop this from happening we must all take responsibility for protecting our personal information, especially when working and playing online.
"By following some simple procedures, such as creating strong passwords, protecting internet connected devices with up-to-date security software and not sharing too much personal information online, we can make life much more difficult for the identity fraudsters and ensure fewer of us fall victim to what is a highly disruptive and upsetting crime."
In September, data from credit report website Experian revealed it takes an average of 246 days to discover identity theft. Its managing director of consumer services Peter Turner, said: "That's a very long time for a fraudster to have your details without you knowing."
Experian identified five key signs to look out for that may indicate your identity may have been stolen.
1. Unexpected call charges appearing on your mobile phone bill
2. You receive a delivery of a new laptop/phone/TV you haven't ordered or paid for
3. You receive unexpected, irrelevant mail
4. You receive a letter or call from a debt collector or bailiff about a loan you know nothing about
5. You receive a court summons for non-payment of a bill for something you didn't buy.
If you have experienced anything mentioned in the list, click here for advice on what to do.
A report containing detailed information on a person’s credit history, a record of an individual’s (or company’s) past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy. It also includes all applications a person has made for financial products and whether they were rejected or accepted. Your credit report can be obtained by prospective lenders to determine your creditworthiness.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.