Who'll stop the fraudsters stepping into your shoes?

Cases are soaring but the onus is still on consumers to be 'vigilant', warns Kate Hughes

Following the loss of 25 million people's per-sonal details by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), ID theft is on everyone's lips. But how big a problem is it really? What are the banks and the Government doing about it? And how good are the anti-theft products being pushed by insurers and credit card providers?

In 1999, according to official figures, just 9,000 cases of ID theft were recorded. By 2003, that was up to 43,000, and in 2007 the number was 80,000. Compared to incidents of burglary, car theft and domestic violence, this crime is small fry – but it is growing fast. This year, the number of ID theft cases will undoubtedly top 100,000 – and it may be worse if criminal gangs get their hands on the information lost by HMRC.

Ultimately, the main financial losers are banks, insurers, the Government (which of course hurts taxpayers) and retailers. But the hassle and disruption for people who have their identities stolen can be immense. It can take many hours for victims to convince banks and other institutions that they are who they say they are – and even then, some will find they are turned down for credit in the future.

One of the fastest-growing forms of ID theft involves fraudsters taking on the identity of the recently deceased. This can cause distress for their families.

One victim told The Independent on Sunday of her horror that the identity of her dead mother had been stolen and then used to obtain fraudulent loans. "I was very angry. Mum hadn't been well off and had worked hard not to get into debt, never taking out loans or credit cards and always paying her bills. The police were not at all interested. They told me to go home and forget about it. It has been going on for the last two years and Mum's name is still being used."

Tapping into the growing fears of identity fraud, some banks and insurers have been pushing so-called ID theft protection to customers, either as a free add-on to a financial product or as a standalone service. The first into this area was the Capital One credit card firm, followed by Barclaycard and HSBC. Generally, though, these add-ons are rudimentary, offering an advice line, a named case handler and tips on how to spot the signs of ID fraud.

Pay a £7 monthly fee to the standalone service Halifax Indentitycare and you get regular credit reports, alerts of activity on your credit file, £25,000 towards any legal fees you incur, and a dedicated service to repair your credit record.

Peter Gerrard, head of insurance research for price-comparison site Money-supermarket.com, says many anti-ID fraud products are of "dubious" worth. He adds that the provision of alerts and credit reports, while "useful", is "no substitute for account holders being vigilant".

Picking up the pieces after the theft of an identity is, says Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council (NCC), "stressful, disruptive and often frightening". The NCC is calling for a "one-stop shop" where all victims are given help in putting things right, and where the data of banks, credit reference agencies and the Government can be updated quickly to stop fraudsters in their tracks.

Mr Mayo adds that banks, retailers and the Government need to stop being "lax about the security details of the public".

There are some signs that banks are upping their game a bit: staff are being trained to spot fake documents and many, particularly in overseas call centres, operate paperless offices with no internet connection, so employees cannot copy customers' details.

However, the loss of so many people's information by HMRC shows there is a long way to go before Britons can feel safe their identities are protected.

How to protect yourself

* Don't carry personal information such as bank statements or utility bills.

* Shred personal information before disposing of it in the rubbish.

* Check credit reports regularly.

* If your post fails to arrive, contact the post office – a "mail divert" may have been set up by fraudsters.

* Avoid giving personal information over the telephone or internet if you can possibly avoid it.

* Have different passwords and pin numbers for your accounts.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice