Identity theft hits record levels

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Record numbers of Britons are having their identities "stolen" by fraudsters, who run up bills worth thousands of pounds.

Victims must get new credit cards and other documents, and convince lenders they are not a risk.

A quarter of Britons are thought to have been affected or know someone who has been, and identity theft is estimated to cost the UK more than £2bn a year.

Attempts by fraudsters to buy goods using stolen details have leapt by 13 per cent, and reports of identity theft has increased by 7 per cent, figures show.

The credit industry, including banks, insurance companies and retailers, detected 39,067 attempts to defraud using a false address in the first half of the year, compared with 34,539 in the same period in 2004.

Cifas, the fraud prevention service, said there were27,392 cases of people using a false identity to gain credit, compared with 25,571 in the first six months of 2004.

A survey for Friedland, the security company, discovered that most people took few precautions to prevent personal information being stolen. Fifty-six per cent stored documents in one place and 60 per cent failed to lock them away.