Slough has overtaken London to become the identity fraud capital of the UK. That's according to credit watcher Experian.
The Berkshire town recorded 25 identity fraud attempts for every 10,000 households. Slough residents were targeted at around four times the UK national average (seven households in every 10,000).
Residents of London, Gravesend, Birmingham, Luton, Manchester and Leicester were also targeted at twice the national average rate.
London as a whole experienced 22 attempts for every 10,000 households, although attempts were not spread evenly across the capital. Substantial hotspots for identity fraud activity were found in and around London's Olympic neighbourhoods.
Financial service providers detected 78 incidents for every 10,000 households in East Ham, as residents were targeted at more than 11 times the national rate. Woolwich and Stratford also experienced significant identity fraud activity, recording 46 and 43 identity fraud attempts respectively for every 10,000 households.
Top 10 nationwide fraud hotspots by cases per 10k households
London (all) 22
High Wycombe 13
Top 10 in London by cases per 10k households
East Ham 78
Source: Experian, National Hunter and Insurance Hunter
Whilst the instances of fraud across all financial products remained at a constant level between 2010 and 2011 (six in every 10,000 applications were found to be fraudulent), the data shows that there was a surge in identity theft via current accounts doubling from six to 14 in every 10,000 applications, and mortgages quadrupling from one to four in every 10,000. Identity fraud attempts on credit cards fell from 17 to four in every 10,000 applications.
Most worryingly fraudsters turned their attention away from the wealthy to target Joe Public.
For the first time, young people renting small flats from local councils or housing associations were the most likely to be targeted by identity fraudsters. This group saw its identity fraud risk score increase by 47% to 256 in 2011. Its constituents are two-and-a-half times more likely than the average UK resident to be targeted.
Almost as high on the identity fraud danger list are a group of mostly young people with few qualifications who work in relatively menial, routine occupations, and live close to the centres of small towns or, in London, in areas developed prior to 1914 in terraced houses (risk score 242). This group saw its risk score increase by 75%.
Previously, the wealthiest sections of society living in fashionable London neighbourhoods – were most likely to be targeted. The risk score for this group helved in 2011 (from 301 in 2010 to 149) as fraudsters turned their attentions to younger and less affluent sections of society.
Nick Mothershaw, UK director of identity & fraud services at Experian, said: "The increasing prominence of lower income demographics at the top of Experian's identity fraud risk table, alongside declining risk scores for the wealthiest groups, represents a notable shift in fraudsters' tactics.
"Identity fraudsters have traditionally focused the bulk of their attentions on the wealthiest sections of society living in prestigious London postcodes. Our research shows that the risk continues to spread, with the highest rates of identity fraud now to be found in the Thames Valley and London's Olympic neighbourhoods.
"Financial services firms and other providers of credit recognise the financial and reputational risks associated with identity fraud, and have put in place increasingly sophisticated identity verification and anti-fraud measures to combat the threat. Individuals also have a role to play fighting the fraudsters and it is important that they take steps to protect their personal information."
The top 10 scams of 2011
Slough tops London as ID fraud capital
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme
It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.
Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.