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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
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

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

    Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?