UK consumer group calls for one-stop ID theft support centre

UK consumer group calls for one-stop ID theft support centre

The UK's National Consumer Council (NCC) is calling on banks to join with other businesses to set up an online national support centre for customers who have fallen victim to identity theft.

The latest move follows calls from the NCC earlier this year for companies to set up dedicated helpdesks for customers who have been affected by ID theft.

The consumer group is now urging businesses – particularly banks, credit card, mobile phone, utility and mail order companies - to set up and finance a national ID theft support centre, similar to one that has already been established in the US.

The NCC's chair Lord Whitty says setting up an ID theft support centre would cost a fraction of the billions lost by industry to the crime. ID theft is estimated to cost the UK economy £1.7 billion, says the NCC, and affects more than 100,000 people every year.

Often the first sign there's anything wrong is when a mortgage or credit card application is rejected or demands for unpaid bills or debts arrive.

As a result of victims' experiences at the hands of the companies involved, the NCC says it is publishing a blueprint for action on better support which builds on what victims say they want – a telephone and Web-based one-stop ID theft support centre.

NCC says the root of the problem is that legally it's the company that is considered the victim of identity fraud - not the person whose name has been stolen. As a result, the police often refuse to give victims crime reference numbers - making it even harder for them to prove their identity.

Several victims who contacted NCC were caught in a 'catch 22' situation of needing to get a crime reference number to clear their name with providers, but being refused one by the police because they were not considered victims.

Says Whitty: "It's clear from our research that business must dedicate more time and resources into putting things right for victims of ID theft – or face calls for stronger consumer protection laws."

So far, the UK government and companies have focused on raising consumer awareness of ID theft, he adds, but no-one has paid much attention to supporting its victims.

The NCC says an ID theft support centre would help victims prove their identity, help victims get and understand their credit report, take the necessary steps to prevent further fraud, contact all relevant service providers on victims' behalf, keep victims informed of progress and have an ongoing consumer education role.

The consumer group says that while the centre is being set up, companies that deal with consumer accounts should follow good practice guidelines to help fraud victims which should include a dedicated support line in each company with a caseworker for each victim, a standard referral and action advice system for victims when the company is the first port of call and a commitment to treating relatives and executors of people who have died and whose identity has been stolen in the same way as other victims.

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