Identity fraud continues to be the single biggest fraud threat, according to the latest report by UK fraud prevention service Cifas.
The report is based on fraud cases from 245 Cifas members that span a range of UK industry sectors.
The report said 41% of all frauds recorded in 2014 involved criminal abuse of personal data or identity details to impersonate an innocent victim or to create fictitious identities to steal money.
Statistics show that 113,839 cases of identify fraud were recorded in 2014, up by 5% compared with the year before.
The average age for identity victims is 46, and men were almost twice as likely as women to have their identity stolen.
Young adults are increasingly becoming targets, with the number of young adult identity fraud victims aged between 21 and 30 increasing by just over 51% since 2011 to 14,850.
Cifas said this suggests that as digitally savvy young people enter their twenties and increase their access to financial products, they are increasingly at risk.
However, older groups are still at risk, with a 15% rise in the number of identity fraud victims aged over 55 from 2013 to 25,346 in 2014.
The rise in identity fraud was accompanied by a significant drop in takeover of accounts where fraudsters hack into or take over existing accounts.
Cifas said these trends underline criminals’ ability to adapt. As it has become harder to take over existing accounts due to better security, criminals have shifted their attention to using other people’s identities, or creating entirely false identities, to open new ones, the report said.
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- The annual worldwide impact of phishing and various forms of identity theft could be as high as $3bn
- Fraudsters exchanged 12 million pieces of personal information online in the first quarter of 2012
- Six members of a UK cyber fraud organisation have been jailed for selling identity theft kits online
According to the report, overall fraud case increased by 25% from 2013 to 2014, but by working across sectors, Cifas member organisations prevented an estimated £1bn worth of fraud in 2014.
Cifas fraud cases are streamed daily to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the City of London Police, for investigation.
Cifas chief executive Simon Dukes said identity fraud is a crime at an industrial scale.
“The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals,” he said.
“We need to redouble our efforts to fight fraud across sectors and to educate consumers and people of all ages. Fraudsters don’t operate in silos, and neither can we.”
Dukes said there is also a need for better fraud-related data. “This data is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scale of fraud in the UK,” he said.
Cifas said that while its member data is a “sound barometer” for fraud trends in the UK, it is not the full picture and the true number of fraud cases and victims is likely to be higher.
The organisation has called on the government to work with industry to re-establish a national measure of fraud losses and fraud levels to enable the UK to tackle this problem more effectively.
The report calls for more research into the exact point at which data is compromised.
“Cifas members cannot always know at what point their customers’ identities have been compromised and individuals often do not know themselves. Yet this information would be vital in focusing prevention efforts,” the report said.
The report also calls for further research into the involvement of organised criminals in fraud, a co-ordinated education and awareness campaign on fraud led by government and industry, and a comprehensive review of the sentencing guidelines for fraud.