ID fraudsters switch tactics

ID fraudsters switch tactics

The credit crisis has made it more difficult for fraudsters to set up fake accounts so they are increasingly targeting existing bank accounts instead, according to a report from a group of MPs.

The all-party parliamentary group on identity fraud says that as banks begin to take a firmer line on loans, mortgages and overdrafts in the wake of the credit crunch, criminals are targeting individual accounts which offer a guaranteed financial resource.

"There is no longer a guarantee that they will get credit by applying assuming another person's identity, so they are instead tapping into accounts which already exists," says the report.

The report also warns that the London 2012 Olympics will provide a golden opportunity for identity fraudsters and urges government and organisers to take this into consideration when planning the event.

MPs expect to see an increase in phishing e-mails as fraudsters attempt to capitalise on the 2012 brand. It also raises concerns over the increase in tourism around the Games, which may provide an opportunity for fraudsters to take advantage of overseas credit and debit accounts.

The group says steps have been taken to combat ID fraud since its last report in 2007 and public awareness of the problem - estimated by the home office to cost the country £1.7 billion a year - is improving.

The UK's fraud prevention service says the number of proven cases of ID fraud had fallen to 28,500 victims in the first six months of this year, compared with 33,466 during the same period in 2007.

But despite this encouraging trend, there was a six per cent rise in card-not-present fraud cases during 2007, costing the UK economy £327 million. Meanwhile, the number of incidents of card cloning and phishing rocketed 182% in the second quarter of 2008 compared with the same period last year.

Nigel Evans, chair of the group, says "too many businesses and organisations continue to leave themselves and their customers open to attack".

The report criticises banks, citing anecdotal evidence that some are using fears of identity fraud to sell additional products to clients which came as a standard part of their service less than five years ago.

"We believe that these services should be provided to consumers at no extra cost. When identity fraud does occur it should be the responsibility of the banks and retailers to support their customers, helping to rebuild credit files, restore lost funds and provide advice to prevent future incidents - at no additional cost," says the report.

The group also expresses "alarm" at the recent losses of personal data in the public sector which, it says, "have placed a host of individuals at risk of identity fraud".

In light of the seriousness of the problem, the Information Commissioner should be given greater funding and powers to act as the UK's identity fraud tsar, says the report.

It also calls on the government to ensure funding for National Fraud Reporting Centre call centre pilots, saying it would "set a concerning precedent for future fraud strategy if key elements do not receive the support they require from government".

Last year the House of Lords slammed the government for ignoring its recommendations on fighting cyber crime and improving Internet security.

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