Experian, a global information solutions provider, today unveiled a new report which highlights a dramatic increase in identity fraud activity and reveals who is most likely to fall victim to this crime.
The rate at which new identity fraud victims are contacting Experian continues to grow: 2,124 victims contacted Experian's Victims of Fraud service for the first time in the second half of 2006, a 69 per cent increase on the same period in 2005. Experian attributes some of the rise to organised criminal gangs operating global identity fraud rings.
The report reveals that - for the first time - fraudsters are now more likely to target a victim by using their current address, rather than a previous address. Present address fraud, which requires sophisticated methods involving mail interception or redirection, accounted for almost half (45 per cent) of all cases reported to Experian in the second half of 2006.
London remains the identity fraud capital of the UK with all of the top 25 most-at-risk areas located inside the M25. The area around Victoria Street in Westminster has overtaken Kensington as the highest risk area in the UK for identity fraud, with residents there being almost three-and-a-half times more likely to fall victim than the national average. Those living inside the M25 are on average two-and-a-half times more likely to fall victim.
Residents of Blackpool, Southport, Newport on the Isle of Wight and Scarborough should also be extra vigilant. Their towns all feature more than 90 places higher on Experian's identity fraud league table than they did during previous research.
The lifestyles of the top salaried professionals - directors and business owners who often live in the most exclusive city residences - continues to make them prime targets for identity fraudsters. They are almost four times more likely to fall victim than the average UK resident. Those renting - either privately or from local authorities - are also at high risk. Young singles and homesharers who live in flats rented from local councils or housing associations are more than twice as likely to fall victim, as are the young, single, wealthy people who rent high-value flats in fashionable areas.
Almost half (49 per cent) of the individuals who contacted Experian did not realise they were a victim until they were contacted by a financial service company. The second largest proportion (41 per cent) became aware that they had been targeted when they obtained a copy of their credit report and saw fraudulent accounts had been opened or applied for in their names.
Jill Stevens, Director of Consumer Affairs at Experian, commented: "The latest dramatic increase in identity fraud coincides with increasing activity in this space from organised crime but the opportunistic identity fraudster remains a very real threat to consumers, too. We should all be looking after our personal information because it is as precious as the cash in our wallets. But we must also be aware of the need to protect our technology, as organised criminal gangs often source vast amounts of data online before implementing sophisticated fraud against a wide range of victims.
"This research reveals some alarming identity fraud trends and helpfully identifies those people and neighbourhoods who need to take most care. Unfortunately, though, nobody can be complacent as anyone, anywhere can be targeted by a fraudster. So it makes sense for us all to protect our personal information."