Identity fraudsters target homes

FRESH warnings were issued last night as new figures showed identity fraud victims are being increasingly targeted at their current addresses.

Britain's fraud prevention service CIFAS said organised crime gangs were often behind the sophisticated fraud, hacking into people's computers to gain personal details.

It warned people to be vigilant and to ensure they took steps to protect themselves.

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Rather than use details from a victim's previous address, identity fraudsters impersonate their victims more successfully if they can obtain a full set of their details and attempt to impersonate them at their current addresses.

This makes any application seem more legitimate and can help to make it much more difficult for businesses to detect fraud.

In 2009 CIFAS said there was a 32 per cent increase in cases of identity fraud, the rise being blamed on the impact of the recession.

Current address fraud accounted for more than 55 per cent of all identity frauds recorded in 2009, but just 31 per cent in 2008. The increase represents a 78 per cent increase in just 12 months.

CIFAS communications manager Richard Hurley said: "Consumers must be increasingly aware and vigilant and ensure that they protect all their details.

"The rise in this more sophisticated kind of fraud can often be perpetrated by organised criminal networks exploiting our use of computers and the Internet to obtain, by stealth a more complete set of our details."

Criminals can use a variety of tactics to get people to divulge information such as bogus "phishing" e-mails claiming to be from banks to trick people into revealing their bank details, along with viruses that can read confidential details from computers. Users can obtain software to protect themselves against these viruses and attacks.

The Yorkshire Post earlier revealed that cases of identity fraud across the region rose by almost fifty per cent in the first nine months of last year as the recession bit.

There were almost 5,000 cases of identity theft and the take over of another person's account in the first nine months of the year across the region, in comparison with 3,432 cases in the same period in 2008 – an increase of nearly 45 per cent.

The figures revealed earlier this year showed some areas had experienced a much bigger increase than others. In BD postcode areas, which includes Bradford, Bingley, Skipton and surrounding areas, there were 720 cases in the first nine months of 2009, compared with 332 in the same period in 2008.

It is believed that the recession was a significant contributory factor for the rise.

Last night CIFAS said nearly 85 per cent of identity frauds against mail order accounts in 2009 were committed using a victim's current address.

Bank accounts also witnessed large scale rises in current address fraud. Credit card users also fell victim, despite an overall fall in other types of credit card identity theft.

Mr Hurley added: "Not only must consumers dispose of physical details in a secure manner, but they must also ensure that sensitive electronic documents are kept separate from each other.

"Scanned documents and account details must, preferably, not be kept on computer hard drives but, more preferably, be backed up onto discs and full virus and malware protection products must be in place."