Stolen IDs reach record level

Man Tsuey Tse

Identity theft costs the UK economy  £1.7 billion pounds, according to the latest Home Office figures. This is equivalent to the amount of money recently allocated to the Mayor of London London to build 28,650 affordable homes for the capital.

And according to CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service, the number of victims could reach more than 68,000 by the end of the year. Compared to last year, this is an increase of 21 per cent.

Det Chief Sup Nigel Mawer, Head of the Metropolitan Police's Economic and Specialist Crime unit, said;  "Identity theft is not a victimless crime  — it can cause serious implications for individual victims, corporations, the public at large and the economy as a whole."

Thieves use stolen personal details to apply for credit cards, store cards, mobile phone accounts as wells as withdrawing money from bank accounts. Most victims do not know this has happened until they receive unfamiliar bills or statements to their address.

As part of a drive to increase public awareness, a joint initiative between private and public sectors was set up, which included the Metropolitan Police, CIFAS and the Identity and Passport Services. National Identity Fraud Prevention Week was launched in 2005, and its aim is to make people aware of how easy it is to become a victim and the simple steps that can be taken to protect themselves. Police say that if you do fall victim, contact them and relevant companies as soon as possible. Although growing awareness of identity theft has meant that organisations are equipped to deal with situations more quickly, it can take up to six months for problems to be rectified. Current UK law does not classify identity theft as a specific crime category and so convictions are not much of a deterrent.

How you can avoid being a victim

  • Shred any letters that have any details of your name and/or address before disposal
  • Be careful with your post  — if you are going away, contact Royal Mail who will keep your post for up to two months, which you can pick up on your return.
  • Keep a watch on your bank statements  — look out for any suspicious transactions or missing statements
  • Do not respond to suspicious emails (phishing) or telephone calls asking for details of address and passwords

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