The number of victims of identity fraud has risen by a third so far this year in comparison with this time last year.

The figures from CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service, showed that there have been over 59,000 victims of impersonation, while the overall number of identity frauds has increased by 33 per cent in the first nine months in comparison with 2008.

Meanwhile account takeovers have risen by 23 per cent in comparison with the same period in 2008, and by 238 per cent in the last 24 months. At the beginning of the National Identity Fraud Prevention Week campaign to raise awareness of the growing threat of identity fraud, CIFAS chief executive Peter Hurst claimed that ‘fraud is an insidious crime'.

Hurst said: “Not only does fraud affect consumers and businesses financially, but its impact in terms of reputation, trust and time are unquantifiable. Not only is fraud prevention a shared responsibility but it must also become a shared duty across both private and public sectors."

Commenting on the figures, Michael Lynch, identity theft expert from CPP, said: “These figures are worrying and show that identity fraud in all its guises continues to be a serious threat. More victims contact us about account takeover than any other type of identity fraud, so it's vital that people remain alert and regularly check their banks statements for suspicious activity.

“The fact that fraudsters are targeting existing accounts in increasing numbers is a consequence of tighter lending and switching their criminal activities to existing account holders where credit is readily available.”

Mel Morris, CEO of Prevx, said: “Statistics also show that 88 per cent of people have some sort of security software on their PCs; however this obviously is not providing adequate protection. These account takeovers generally occur by criminals placing some malware on a victim's PC.

“Due to the highly sophisticated and fast-evolving methods of cybercriminals, even the leading anti-malware solutions customers might use will miss nearly 70 per cent of new infections. Banks can help their customers fight this and boost their malware defences by layering one security solution on top of another.”