London is the epicentre of the UK's identity crime industry, a new report has revealed.
The research, conducted by credit reference agency Experian, found that people living in the capital are four and a half times more likely to become a victim of identity crime than those living elsewhere in the UK.
Twenty of the top 50 identity theft hotspots are located within London and out of the 54 areas classified as "very high risk" 34 are within the M25. Moreover, only three of the top 50 identity fraud regions are located outside the South-East of England - they are Birmingham central, Birmingham Kings Heath and Edinburgh Princes Street. Richmond upon Thames ranked second in the UK's most at risk areas and Harrow came in third.
Within London the residents of Kensington are most likely to become victims of such crimes, being almost five times greater than average of having their identities stolen. Westminster's Victoria Street came out second with Queensway, King Street in Hammersmith and the Kings Road in Chelsea completing the top five.
According to the report the groups most at risk include high-flying graduates living in rented accommodation, young families, young singles on reasonable incomes and high earners living in expensive housing.
The study also found that in most cases of identity theft it's the companies involved that suffer the direct financial loss rather than the victim whose name is used in the fraud.
The organisations hardest hit by identity crime in terms of volume are mail order companies - accounting for more than 60 per cent of all fraudulent cases in the 2005/6 financial year. However, in terms of value the biggest sufferers were credit and store card issuers, with 35 per cent of fraud losses during that same 12-month period.
Jill Stevens, director of consumer affairs at Experian said: "This is the first major project of its kind and paints a startling picture of identity fraud today. It takes an average of 450 days to discover you've been the target of identity fraud and you can then face up to 300 hours putting the record straight, so it makes sense to take every precaution."
She added: "It's important that people take steps to minimise the chances of becoming a victim of identity fraud. Checking your credit report regularly is a simple way of making sure nobody has hijacked your credit history."