Death records to be released to curb fraud

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The Independent Online

Death records are to be released for the first time in a bid to stop fraudsters stealing the identity of the deceased, the Government announced today.

Encrypted files containing details of everyone who has died in the UK will be sent out every week to vetted organisations including credit checking agencies under the initiative.

The move is aimed at curbing the exploitation of the dead by criminals who use obituaries to build up an identity to open bank accounts, commit benefit fraud or aid illegal immigration.

The scheme's announcement coincides with the start of National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, a government-backed awareness drive to warn of the risks of ID fraud.

Figures suggest that the cost of the crime to the UK is in the region of £1.7bn every year.

It is hoped that sending out encrypted files containing the details of the recently deceased will curb the potential for criminals to steal their identity.

Around 12,000 records a week will be made available by the General Register Office for England & Wales and its Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts.

They will go to credit checking firms who have applied to receive the information under the initiative.

Meg Hillier, Home Office minister with responsibility for identity fraud, said: "I welcome the release of death records by the three registrars general in the UK which will not only help to combat identity fraud but will also reduce the impact on relatives of the deceased forced to deal with the consequence of their loved ones' identities being stolen.

"Identity fraud continues to be a serious problem which we know helps enable other criminal activity such as benefit fraud, illegal immigration, illegal working, drug trafficking and terrorism."

Peter Hurst, chief executive of CIFAS the UK's Fraud Prevention Service, said: "The number of individuals affected continues to be far too high.

"The work of the Home Office through the Identity Fraud Steering Committee and continuing work programmes is therefore vital, not least because bringing together key stakeholders has already achieved much both to educate people about identity fraud and how to protect against it.

"Identity fraud is serious, and no-one should be complacent about it. Quite apart from financial losses, the effect on victims can be very distressing. Where a victim's identity has been seriously compromised, it can be an extremely time-consuming and frustrating process to untangle the threads of deception."