Identity fraud hit a record high in 2017, a worrying new report reveals.
The annual Fraudscape report by fraud prevention service Cifas shows more than 300,000 cases of fraudulent conduct were recorded last year.
Data compiled from 306 organisations reveals identity fraud has hit an all-time high, with 174,523 cases recorded in 2017 – up 1% from the previous year and a staggering 125% increase from a decade ago.
Some 95% of cases involved the impersonation of an innocent victim. The internet may be fuelling the rise, with eight out of 10 fraudulent applications in the year having been made online.
Cifas says fraudsters are turning their attention away from fake applications for credit cards and bank accounts to setting up mobile phone contracts, short-term loans, retail credit loans and online credit loans.
Mike Haley, deputy chief executive at Cifas, says: “Fraud in the UK continues to evolve and as some targets become harder to crack, criminals turn to what they consider are softer targets. But as fraudsters see their attempts to obtain these products become more difficult, the question is what they will target next.”
There was also a 27% increase in the number of 14- to 24-year-olds becoming so-called ‘money mules’. This is a form of money laundering when a person agrees to receive a transfer of illicit funds into their bank account and transfer it to another account in exchange for a cut of the money.
Victims do not know that the transfers are for dodgy transactions and are often lured in by the promise of easy money or encouraged by an acquaintance. Worryingly, more than a third of money mules are aged under 21.
The shady strategy means fraudsters can not be linked to the illicit transactions and leave the person whose account it is at risk of imprisonment. The number of bank accounts identified as being used as ‘mule’ accounts was up 11% in the year with more than 32,000 cases recorded.
But it’s not just young people being targeted by scammers – more than a third of bank account takeover victims were 60 or older.
Conor Burns MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming, says: “Fraud is the 21stcentury volume crime and the issue is not going to go away. With more people sharing data, transacting, setting up businesses, dating and chatting online, this trend is only going to continue.”
Cifas says organisations prevented more than £1.3 billion in fraud losses through data sharing.
Mr Haley adds: “The volume of fraud is frighteningly high and much more needs to be done to reduce its prevalence, including greater collaboration and sharing of fraud risk data between industry, government and law enforcement.”
To reduce the risk of fraud, Cifas advises people to never disclose security details such as their PIN or passwords, not to assume callers or emails are genuine, and not to be rushed into financial decisions.