New Cifas data reveals 173,000 cases recorded in 2016, record high
New Cifas data reveals 173,000 cases recorded in 2016, record high

Cifas, the UK's fraud prevention service, has released new figures showing that identity fraud has hit the highest levels ever recorded. 

Detailing its findings in a press release, a record high of 172,919 identity frauds were recorded in 2016 more than in any other previous year. Identity fraud now represents over half of all fraud recorded by the UK's not-for-profit fraud data sharing organisation (53.3 percent of all frauds recorded to Cifas), of which 88 percent was perpetrated online.

The vast majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be an innocent individual to buy a product or take out a loan in their name.

Often victims do not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating. To carry out this kind of fraud successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim's personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank and who they hold accounts with.

Fraudsters get hold of this in a variety of ways, from stealing mail through to hacking; obtaining data on the ‘dark web'; exploiting personal information on social media, or through ‘social engineering' where innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a trusted retailer.

This kind of fraud, said Lisa Baergen, director at NuData Security is often what comes after large data breaches: “Stolen data is collected and combined into a vast set of consumer data, which is extremely useful to today's fraudsters to thwart existing online security and identity verification systems used so often by online organisations.”

The report notes rising rates of young people falling victim to identity fraud. The upward trend carried on from previous years with 25,000 reported victims who were under 30.  Moreover, the authors witnessed a 34 percent increase in fraud on under 21s.

Mike Haley, deputy chief executive at the group told SC that CIFAS is “urging everyone to make it more difficult for fraudsters to abuse their identity.” Haley advised three simple steps to apply to make this happen: use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted on your devices; and avoid using public wi-fi for banking and online shopping.

Robin Tombs, CEO at Yoti told SC Media UK that this announcement underlines how serious the threat of identity theft really is. The problem lies in the conflict between security and convenience: “Consumers' desire for convenience often trumps security concerns, allowing fraudsters to access other people's personal information and make hay.”

“Giving people a convenient yet secure way to access their online accounts and protect their personal information will help overcome the threat of identity fraud. I believe privacy by design and biometric authentication will play a key role in addressing this conundrum.”

“Unless such measures are put in place,” Tombs added, “the number of cases of identity theft will continue to rise.”

“The sad fact is that the internet and e-commerce has only made fraud easier,”Nick Brown, group managing director GBG said.. “Individual's identity details, such as their name, address and date of birth are so much more accessible online than in paper records”.

The comparative speed, accessibility and cost of e-commerce means that living without some kind of online identity is difficult.

Our overwhelming reliance on those kinds of service doesn't help, added Tim Ayling, director EMEA Fraud & Risk Intelligence, RSA: “People spend so much of their time online and many do so while leaving a trail of personal information behind them – with little or no regard to security or privacy. Cybercriminals are well adept at following this trail of breadcrumbs back to their target, and ruthless when it comes to using this information against them for financial gain.