ID theft: we're throwing away £1.7bn a year
Take precautions with your personal details: don't let the bin raiders steal your identity
Sunday 22 October 2006
"People have got to stop being so complacent. [Home] owners spend thousands of pounds protecting their properties against burglary, but [new] research shows that virtually everyone in the country is literally handing over their identity to bin raiders."
That's the stark warning from Tyron Hill, spokesman for a national campaign against ID fraud, as he broods over figures suggesting that 97 per cent of British households - more than 21 million homes - are still putting valuable material for fraudsters out with the rubbish. This information, adds Mr Hill, includes mail, receipts and other scraps of paper disclosing our full name, sex, address, postcode or bank details - the kind of financial profile, in other words, sought by bin raiders who want to take out credit or open accounts using the name of their victims.
One in three people bin correspondence quoting their full, 16-digit credit or debit card number, and 46 per cent routinely throw away an item containing their full bank account details, according to Fellowes, a shredder manufacturer.
Despite repeated warnings to consumers from bodies including the Metro- politan Police, Crimestoppers, Cifas (the UK's fraud- prevention service) and credit-reference agencies, ID fraud is on the rise and now costs the British economy £1.7bn a year.
Cifas reports that at the end of September this year, the number of reported victims had reached 51,025 - a record level and a 21 per cent increase on the first three quarters of 2005.
Meanwhile, a new report from the credit-reference agency Experian sheds light on the latest ID fraud trends.
While the crime affects people across the country, the risk of falling prey to it is four times greater for Londoners, on average, than other British residents.
Today, the most common form of ID theft is "present address fraud", where the victim's details are used by someone living at the same address. Usually, the most vulnerable addresses are those with shared mailboxes, or flats with shared hallways where post is left on a table for residents.
While you may have taken precautions (see the box below) and noticed nothing suspicious about your finances, be aware that ID fraud is a "hidden" crime and can take well over a year to come to light - 450 days on average, reports Experian.
It might only become apparent that there's a problem when bailiffs turn up at your address requesting money, or when an application for a mortgage or credit card is refused.
If you do fall victim, don't panic but do act promptly and tell the police. "Lenders and other organisations are used to dealing with cases of fraud and will try to help you sort things out as quickly as possible," says Experian spokeswoman Jill Stevens.
Keep a record of all phone calls, letters and emails connected with the fraud.
Despite requests from the National Consumer Council for a "one-stop-shop" support centre for victims of ID theft - funded by businesses and operated over the telephone and internet - little has emerged so far except for a feasibility study.
The cost in terms of distress and time spent reclaiming your identity is considerable: you can face up to 300 hours putting the record straight, Experian estimates.
In nearly all cases, however, people do not suffer a direct financial loss as a result of a fraud being carried out in their name. This casts doubt on the sale of ID fraud "protection policies" by providers such as the Halifax and Allianz Cornhill.
For example, Smile's Identity Protection Alert offers up to £50,000 to "cover the costs of restoring your identity, including legal fees and lost wages".
But such cover isn't cheap, costing up to £60 a year, and the policies were slammed by the consumer body Which? as "the most useless financial product" in a report last year.
The money, it said, "would be much better spent on a shredder and protection software for your PC".
How to foil the fraudsters
* Shred or otherwise destroy anything containing personal information before throwing it away.
* Monitor bank and credit card statements for unfamiliar entries, and check your credit report on a regular basis by applying to either Equifax, Callcredit or Experian at a cost of £2.
* Never give out personal details over the phone - even if the caller claims to be from your bank. Ask for his name and department and call back using a phone number you already have for that organisation.
* If you move home, re-direct post by contacting the Royal Mail Redirection Service ( www.royalmail.com or 0845 774 0740).
* Make sure you update the electoral roll, and register your name and old address with the Mailing Preference System, to stop direct marketing offers and unsolicited mail going to that property after you've left.
* For more information go to www.stop-idfraud.co.uk.
Rain doesn't stop profits at Andy Murray's £600-a-night hotel Cromlix House
Think twice about investing in fine wine - it's a vintage ploy for the fraudsters
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Bank finally sees sense over £6,000 charge for redeeming mortgage two days early
Questions of Cash: 'I want a refund on my TV licence payments but they've turned my claim into a soap opera'
- 1 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 3 Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
iJobs Money & Business
£35 - 38k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£50 - 80k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Associate Director for the Markets ...
£60 - 100k: Guru Careers: Our client is looking for an Associate Director of S...
Day In a Page
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.