Annual cost of identity theft is £2.7bn

Almost two million people have their identities stolen every year at a cost to the UK of £2.7bn, according to research published today.

Around 1.8 million people fall victim to identity fraud each year, with criminals gaining an average of £1,000 in credit or benefits for each name they steal, according to the National Fraud Authority (NFA).

It said more than £1.9bn of the total relates to the money criminals obtain using other people's identities, with the rest made up of the cost to individuals and companies of preventing and detecting the crime and putting right the damage.

The NFA said in very serious cases it can take people more than 200 hours to resolve the problems caused by identity fraud – the equivalent of a year's annual leave.

Identity fraud involves criminals using another individual's personal details to obtain goods and services, or take out credit or benefits in their name. Stolen identities can also be used to commit other crimes, ranging from evading police to people trafficking and terrorism.

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