Identity fraud and other related crimes have increased by 38 per cent in Yorkshire over the last year with warnings the problem nationwide is “at an industrial scale” with many organised criminals behind the scams.
The shock figures unveiled today by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, reveal organised criminal gangs are increasingly able to target people by gathering personal data to buy goods, steal money and take out credit cards or loans in somebody else’s name at the touch of a computer keyboard sometimes on the other side of the world.
Simon Dukes, Cifas chief executive, said: “The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals.
“This is crime at an industrial scale.
“We need to redouble our efforts to fight fraud across sectors and to educate consumers and people of all ages.”
A number of frauds are included in the Cifas figures, including identity fraud where scammers pose as somebody else to buy goods or take out loans. Crooks target individuals and businesses with the internet providing a valuable source of information.
The figures also include a number of other crimes including lying when people make applications for loans, mortgages and bank accounts, false insurance claims and hacking into personal accounts to steal cash or using it to launder money through - making it harder for the authorities to track where the cash has come from.
In 2013 there were 14,305 frauds in the Yorkshire region but in 2014 that figure had risen to 19,751 frauds - a 38 per cent increase. Nationwide recorded frauds increased by 25 per cent over the same period.
Urban areas tend to be targeted but there is also evidence of crimes being recorded in rural areas. Hotspots include Leeds, Manchester and London and areas surrounding the capitol.
Nationwide the number of young adult identity fraud victims aged between 21 and 30 has increased by 51.7 per cent since 2011, from 9,789 to 14,850. Cifas says this suggests that as digitally savvy young people enter their twenties and increase their access to financial products, they are increasingly at risk.
Older groups are also still at risk – there was a 15 per cent rise in the numbers of identity fraud victims aged over 55.
Cifas only records frauds from its 245 members which include both private and public bodies - and today said actual fraud figures will be higher.
It wants to see a national measure of fraud losses to tackle the issue and said more research was needed to understand how criminal gangs are operating and the extent that the cash is used to fund further criminal activity.
Criminals can use a variety of techniques to get the personal information they need to commit fraud from cold calling people and tricking them into giving them details such as date of birth or online bank account details or using computer spyware or malicious programmes to trap data.