Warning to public as cases of identity theft soar in Yorkshire

CASES of identity fraud across Yorkshire rose by 13 per cent in the first nine months of 2010, the Yorkshire Post has learned.

Other types of fraud such as the takeover of bank accounts, where a fraudster secretly hijacks and plunders a victim's account, or where a person puts false information on a credit application have fallen or levelled off over the same period across Yorkshire – but last night people were warned not to be complacent.

Richard Hurley, communications manager with CIFAS, the UK's fraud prevention service warned: "The fraud threat is just as potent and widespread as ever."

Experts also say while frauds against bank accounts have decreased, possibly because lenders are carrying out more checks and lending less, thieves have been increasingly seeking new targets in 2010 including creating fake mail order and mobile phone accounts.

Across Yorkshire figures from CIFAS show a 13 per cent increase in identity fraud in the first nine months of 2010, when compared with the same period in 2009.

Some areas have experienced a much bigger increase than others. In the Doncaster area identity fraud has risen by 35 per cent, it has gone up by 37 per cent in the Wakefield area, 21 per cent in York and Leeds saw a 19 per cent rise.

In Bradford there was an eight per cent increase and in Hull figures rose by six per cent.

In some parts of the county however it has fallen. Figures for Harrogate are 14 per cent down on 2009, while in Halifax there has nine per cent fall. There has been minimal change in others with Sheffield and Huddersfield both recording a small increase of three per cent.

The data shows that nationwide there were nearly 80,000 instances of identity fraud – where someone poses as another person and runs up bills in their name – in the first nine months of 2010. This is an increase of 9.68 per cent from the same period in 2009.

There were also warnings last night that as attention turns to ensuring the UK's economic recovery, there are fears further damage could be wreaked when businesses feel more confident to lend, and fraudsters start trying to exploit innocent identities in order to gain credit cards and goods.

CIFAS chief executive Peter Hurst said: "As the tentative steps to economic recovery continue, it is important not to lose sight of the threats that are just around the corner.

"Businesses, individuals, regulators and government alike are all victims when fraud goes unchecked and, as such, all have a part to play in helping to prevent fraud from increasing. There is a danger that all lenders or service providers could see the fraud floodgates open once again.

"In a climate where every penny counts, correctly identifying the victims and perpetrators of fraudulent transactions, sharing their details to prevent further fraud, as well as designing systems to prevent fraud going unnoticed are vital steps that all UK businesses and public sector organisations now need to start taking."

There are also warnings that identity thieves have already devalued the credit ratings of thousands of Britons.

A study commissioned by card protection and insurance company CPP found nearly 900,000 people have had their credit rating unfairly damaged by fraudsters, with individuals losing out on a mortgage or a loan or suffering stress or strained relationships.

Identity fraud expert Nicole Sanders from CPP said: "It is clear consumers need to wake up to the fact that identity thieves are out there."

People are urged to shred documents that contain personal information; to ensure others are not looking over their shoulder when entering a pin number at a cash machine or at the checkouts, be careful what details they put online and to monitor bank accounts to make sure they know what is going in and out of their account.