Wealthy Londoners are most at risk as cases of identity theft soar

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The Independent Online

The number of cases of identity theft has soared by 66 per cent in the past year, with wealthy business people and company directors in London topping the list of those most at risk.

More than 6,000 people contacted the credit reference agency Experian for help after becoming victims of fraud in 2007 – up from 3,500 cases the year before. The average sum of money they lost was £1,303, yet despite the large sums involved, only six per cent of ID theft cases reported to police currently result in prosecution.

Residents of the London suburbs of Kensington, Richmond, Putney and Tooting are most likely to fall prey to identity fraud, along with those in Cambridge, Northampton, Windsor and Portsmouth, according to Experian's latest victims of fraud dossier.

Victims are typically aged between 26 and 45 and are home-owners. Those employed at director level or running their own business and those earning in excess of £50,000 a year are almost three times as likely as other people to have their identities stolen, the report says.

However, people living in rented accommodation who often share mailboxes and move frequently provide easy pickings for fraudsters to misuse credit histories that have not been updated, Experian warns. Young single people, those who share local authority accommodation and young professionals renting expensive flats in fashionable areas are twice as likely as the average person to be affected by ID fraud, the report adds.

Helen Lord, director of fraud and compliance at Experian, said: "The dramatic increases in identity fraud over the last few years have coincided with the increasing involvement of organised criminals in this space. Although some people are statistically more likely than others to become victims, we should all be concerned. We are all potential victims."

"Forwarding address fraud" – where a victim's post is redirected to an alternative address – is the most common type of theft, representing 36 per cent of all cases. "Present address fraud", the second-favourite method, is committed by someone living at or using the victim's address and accounts for 30 per cent of all cases. This could involve a family member, a tenant, shared mailboxes or some form of mail interception.

"Previous address fraud", where the perpetrator uses a victim's name and previous addresses, accounts for 24 per cent of cases.

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