A record 172,919 identity frauds were recorded in 2016 more than in any other previous year, according to Cifas, the UKâ€™s leading fraud prevention service.
Identity fraudÂ now represents over half of all fraud recorded by the UKâ€™s not-for-profit fraud data sharing organisation (53.3% of all frauds recorded to Cifas), of which 88% was perpetrated online.
The vast majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be an innocent individual to buy a product or take out a loan in their name. Often victims do not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating.
To carry out this kind of fraud successfully, fraudsters need access to their victimâ€™s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank and who they hold accounts with. Fraudsters get hold of this in a variety of ways, from stealing mail through to hacking; obtaining data on the â€˜dark webâ€™; exploiting personal information on social media, or though â€˜social engineeringâ€™ where innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a trusted retailer.
Growing numbers of young people have fallen victim in recent years and this upward trend continued in 2016 with almost 25,000 victims under 30. In particular Cifas recorded a 34% increase in under 21s. 2016 also saw increases in victims aged over 40, with 1,869 more victims recorded by Cifas members.
Commander Chris Greany, Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime at City of London Police, said:
â€œWe welcome the figures released by Cifas as it demonstrates how we all need to be alert to preventing identity thieves now more than ever before.
â€œWe do everything we can to stop identity thieves in the fight against fraud, but the key is prevention and protection. Just taking a few simple steps can be the difference to protecting your personal information and your finances.â€
Report fraud and cyber crime to Action Fraud and receive a police crime reference number.
Mike Haley, Deputy Chief Executive, Cifas said:
â€œThese new figures show that identity fraud continues to be the number one fraud threat. With nine out of ten identity frauds committed online and with all age groups at risk, we are urging everyone to make it more difficult for fraudsters to abuse their identity. There are three simple steps that anyone can take to protect themselves: use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted on your devices; and avoid using public wi-fi for banking and online shopping.
â€œWe all remember to protect our possessions through locking our house or flat or car but we donâ€™t take the same care to protect our most important asset â€“ our identities. We all need to take responsibility to secure our mail boxes, shred our important documents like bank statements and utility bills, and take sensible precautions online â€“ otherwise we are making ourselves a target for the identity fraudster.â€