Identity crisis: the new face of fraud - Loans & Credit - Money - The Independent

Identity crisis: the new face of fraud

Sam Dunn sees how we can resist the 'phishers', 'skimmers' and bin raiders who steal our lives and then our money

Brazen theft of thousands of pounds from banks and credit card accounts is on the up, and this crime is being committed in your name.

Brazen theft of thousands of pounds from banks and credit card accounts is on the up, and this crime is being committed in your name.

We are oblivious to our "law breaking", of course; it's only when financial damage wrought in our name is uncovered that the truth dawns.

Identity theft and subsequent fraud - a crime that can destroy your credit rating, leave you out of pocket for months and disrupt your life - is growing at an alarming rate. Figures for 2004 from the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs) will this week show a 20 per cent rise in card fraud - up to nearly £37m - resulting from identity theft. As many as one in 10 of us have now fallen victim, the consumer body Which? estimated last week.

The City of London fraud squad has found that more residential burglaries are now carried out with the sole purpose of stealing individuals' bank details or documents.

Identity fraud happens when thieves gather as many bits of information about you as possible - date of birth, proof of address, mother's maiden name, bank account number - and then fraudulently apply for credit cards, open bank accounts or manipulate and drain your existing accounts of cash. In other cases, your identity will be used to forge passports or national insurance numbers for use in serious international crime.

Diverse tricks come into play: "phishing", which dupes you into divulging bank details by email or telephone; spam email viruses, which access sensitive information on your computer; raiding bins for card receipts and discarded bills; intercepting mail, and "skimming" your plastic for credit or debit card details.

Everyone is vulnerable. A court last week heard how Ricky Gervais, star of the TV comedy The Office, had his bank account and passport details stolen in a bid to buy bullion.

Given all this, how much should we worry?

"It's not an epidemic but it could develop into one if we don't all do something about it," warns Neil Munroe, director of the Equifax credit reference agency and a member of the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (Cifas).

The problem is exacerbated by the lack of a single body of authority to which victims can turn for help once a stolen identity comes to light.

"In the worst cases, the first that you know anything about it is when a bailiff turns up at the door," says Apacs spokeswoman Gemma Smith.

So it's left to you to deal with police, work with the aggrieved lender to prove your innocence and then contact the credit reference agencies to start the clean-up operation to restore your credit rating or get your money back. This will take time and prevent you, in the meantime, from being able to take out credit cards, apply for a mortgage or arrange a loan.

At the moment there are no plans to set up a dedicated national body, says Ms Smith, although the industry may be forced to consider it if the figures get much worse.

Ironically, chip and pin debit and credit cards are fuelling the problem as the new anti-fraud technology at the point-of-sale in shops has forced fraudsters to redouble their efforts elsewhere.

Although the victims' own financial losses will usually be reimbursed, identity fraud was estimated by the Government to have cost the UK some £1.3bn back in 2002; a figure that will have soared since then.

No specific regulation from the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the City watchdog, requires banks to adopt security measures such as identity checks for customers. However, since they end up footing the bill, many are working with industry bodies such as Apacs to crack down on the crime.

Privately, a number of banks are considering technology based on finger-printing, as well as plans to match your pin security number with a new password every time you make a financial transaction.

In the meantime, though, there are plenty of steps that individuals can take to protect their identity. Shred old bank statements, bills, loan applications and receipts before you discard them, and don't use obvious clues such as your mother's maiden name as a password.

If you change address, get the Royal Mail to redirect your post - it costs £6.55 for one month.

Regular checks on your credit file - the relevant agencies' web addresses are listed below - allow you to see any fraudulent applications. A postal request to an agency costs just £2.

For £11.75, consider the Cifas Protective Registration Service, which alerts you each time a card application is made in your name.

If you fall victim to identity fraud, you'll need a crime number from the police. Meanwhile, keep copies of all correspondence from lenders defrauded by crooks in your name; it will help as evidence of your innocence.

Contact: www.callcredit.co.uk; www.equifax.co.uk; www.experian.co.uk

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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

    Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

    Sales Executive

    £20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

    Payroll & Accounts Assistant

    £20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

    £280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week