Londoners targeted by identity thieves

Emma Woollacott
A42KRR Hand on computer keyboard, identity fraud concept. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.
A42KRR Hand on computer keyboard, identity fraud concept. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.

London is far and away the country's identity theft capital, with Londoners 10 times more likely to be victims than, say, people in Oldham or Bracknell.

The statistics, compiled by Experian, are based on the number of fraudulent applications across financial products such as bank accounts, loans, mortgages, insurance and credit cards.

And outer London topped the regional list, with 34 cases of identity fraud for every 10,000 adults; the figure for central London was 33. This is way ahead of the next-riskiest area, Hatfield in Hertfordshire, which had just 12 victims in every 10,000.

"The diverse cross-section of demographics in London means that many areas are a prime target," says
Nick Mothershaw, UK and international director of identity and fraud at Experian.

"The affluent suburbs are attractive targets for high level frauds, whilst high density blocks of flats with communal mail boxes can offer identity thieves an easy way in to gain people's information."

Identity theft has now become the most prevalent form of fraud for the first time since the recession - 52% of all detected (and therefore prevented) fraudulent applications. In particular, current account fraud shot up by a fifth as identity thieves tried their luck against new security systems following the introduction of the seven day switching scheme.

According to fraud prevention organisation Cifas, the commonest type of identity fraud last year was credit and debit card fraud, with nearly 50,000 incidents, followed by 24,000 examples of misused bank accounts, and 13,000 bogus loans.

"The good news is that more and more of these frauds are being spotted as the financial services sector continues to innovate in the fight against fraud," says Mothershaw.

There are a number of steps that people can take to minimise the risk of identity fraud.

"Letters and packages can be a key source of information for criminals aiming to defraud you, so make sure your mail collection points are as secure as they can be. Documents containing personal or financial information are of particular value to fraudsters, so keep a special look out if you're expecting to receive something important," says Katy Worobec of Financial Fraud Action UK.

"If you move house or flat, make a point of changing your address details as soon as possible with your bank, and other important organisations, to ensure sensitive mail doesn't fall in to the wrong hands."

An astonishing number of people leave themselves open to fraud by using easy-to-guess passwords such as 'password' or '1234'. And reusing passwords for different services means that cracking one relatively unimportant site can lay banking details wide open.

Clearly, storing account names and passwords on your phone, either in email, as a note, or to 'autocomplete' when you open a website or app, is a gift for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen.

And be careful who you add and what you give away on social networks: information such as your birthday, email address or even your dog's name could all be misused by criminals.

And don't be tempted to open emails, links or attachments from people you don't know.

Experian also advises monitoring your credit report, bank account and card statements regularly, in order to spot any suspicious activity as early as possible.

Top 20 highest third party fraud rates by location in 2014
Location Identity theft incidents out of every 10,000 adults

Outer London 34
Central London 33
Hatfield 12
St Alban 12
Dartford 11
Slough 10
Gravesend 9
Brentwood 8
Aldershot 7
Maidenhead 7
West Thurrock 6
Gillingham 5
Hamilton 5
Bromsgrove 5
Crawley 5
Skipton 5
Birmingham - Erdington 5
Luton 4
Oldham 3
Bracknell 3

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