Confirmed: London is an ID fraudster's paradise

News by Richard Thurston

A nationwide report based on thousands of cases of identity fraud has confirmed that the Capital has a serious ID problem, while some local governments seem to have given up helping residents

Figures released today by credit information company Experian have confirmed that Londoners are the most likely to fall victim to identity fraud.

Experian's findings paint the same worrying picture as statistics produced last week by former Mastercard vice president Peter Warner, which highlighted widespread problems in the Capital.

Analysing 10,000 cases of identity fraud, Experian found that London residents were twice as likely to fall victim to ID fraud than the rest of the country.

The top nine areas for identity fraud are all in London, Experian said, topped by Kensington, Richmond, Putney, Wimbledon and Chelsea, in that order.

Most of the remainder of the top 25 are in the South East, headed by St Albans, Guildford, Epsom and Windsor.

Residents of the Westcountry, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are the least likely to have their identity stolen.

Helen Lord, Experian's director of fraud and compliance said: "London is where the fraud rings are primarily based. We see a mix of opportunisitic and organised fraud. The rate of identity fraud growth is worrying. Although some people are statistically more likely than others to become a victim, we should all be concerned."

SC Magazine asked Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council whether it was doing anything to help prevent identity fraud in the borough. It refused to comment.

Asked why it thought it had the largest identity fraud problem, a spokesperson said he had "no idea".

According to Experian, reports of identity fraud are growing. Just 130 new cases were reported to the credit company in January 2004. This had risen to 510 new cases in December 2007, the latest figures available.

The Metropolitan Police said it could not comment on whether identity fraud was increasing because it is not, in itself, a crime.

Because of this, the Met could not outline any initiatives to tackle the problem, though it did mention the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), which is run jointly by the City of London and Metropolitan Police. The DCPCU claims it saved the payments industry £107m last year by tackling cheque and plastic card fraud.

According to Experian, the most likely section of the population to fall victim to identity theft is aged between 26 and 45 and earns a salary of over £50,000 per year. There is only a negligible difference between men and women in terms of the risk faced.

Just one in nine cases of identity fraud reported to Experian were also reported to the police. Of those that were reported, just 6% resulted in prosecution.

The most common type of identity fraud (36% of cases) is where the fraudster sets up a forwarding address for the victim's post.

The next most common types are:

- Fraud from someone with legitimate access to the victim's house, or to the place where their post is stored, such as a communal entrance (30%);
- Using the victim's previous address to gain access to their information (23%).

Lord said: "Individuals should look after their identification and not disclose their information unless they know it is a genuine organisation."

She added: "Don't respond to phishing attacks and do get copies of your credit report."

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