Criminals can purchase a whole new identity online including a driving permit, bank and utility statements and European work permit for as little as £210.
An audit by life assistance company CPPGroup Plc (CPP) found a range of fraudulent documents available online that are positioned as 'replacement' and 'novelty' documentation. The fakes include replacement bank statements from high-street banks and utility bills from British Gas and BT.
Whilst the driving licence is positioned as a 'novelty' item, the bank statements are intended as 'replacement' items, in the event that consumers have lost and need to replace their bank statements.
With this type of identifying documentation available to purchase online, the holder could potentially use it to commit identity fraud by applying for new lines of credit or obtain goods and services under an assumed identity.
And as well as being available online, stealing an identity doesn't cost a lot - as part of the audit, CPP acquired an international driving permit for just £40 and a European work permit for a £10. A 'package' including bank and utility statements and a PAYE coding notice was only £160.
Official document Price available on black market
- International driving permit £40
- Provisional motorcycle permit £20
- European work permit £10
- Bank and utility statements and PAYE coding notice £160
The documents not only include the means to fabricate a new identity, but more worryingly, included actual account information from people no doubt unaware their sensitive financial information is being traded online and is available nsitive financial information is being traded online and is available to buy.
Although the market for 'replacement' and 'novelty' documentation raises serious questions about its true intent, social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn as well as public registers such as the Births, Marriage Births, Marriages and Deaths records all hold personal information that could be used by fraudsters. Online channels are a particularly good hunting ground for criminals - previous research for CPP found eighty seven per cent of Britons provided their date of birth online, 20 per cent their national insurance details and 45 per cent their credit card details.
Nicole Sanders an identity fraud expert from CPP said: "This audit has shown identifying documents are out there and available at a relatively low cost. Identity theft does happen and unfortunately you cannot guarantee your identity will not get stolen as proven by the recent data breach involving over 70 million Sony PlayStation customers. But there are practical ways people can protect themselves and spot if they are a victim like regularly accessing their credit reports and closely scrutinising their bank statements for any unusual transactions.
"Fraudsters constantly try new types of scams exploiting the latest technology like insecure wireless networks or malware on mobile applications, or utilising the news agenda to swindle people for donations. The National Fraud Authority estimates that every year in the UK identity fraud costs more than £2.7 billion and affects over 1.8 million people, consequently it is important people are vigilant with their personal information and proactively manage their identities.
CPP top tips to reduce the chances of falling victim to identity theft:
• Regularly monitor your credit reports to check for any unusual activity that may indicate fraudulent applications for credit in your name
• Install anti-virus protection, which scans for malicious files that give the PC or notebook a virus, and anti-phishing tools, which identify phishing emails and links that trick users into giving away private information
• Think carefully about adding too much personal information on social networking sites including your date of birth, maiden name, place of birth - this information could be used by a fraudster to commit identity fraud using your personal information
• Install an active firewall, which updates and upgrades automatically, preventing hackers from gaining access to a PC or laptop
• Make sure your post is secure and know when to expect your credit card, utility bills and bank statements - if they don't turn up, ring up and ask why
• Keep your personal information safe. If someone asks for your personal details ask yourself why they would need them. This even applies to any online enquiries
• Don't write down PIN numbers, passwords, user names unless you absolutely have to do so, and if you do, keep them very secure and to yourself
• If you are going to throw away post with your personal details shred it first - this even includes junk mail
• If you move house tell your bank, credit card and utility providers. Use the Royal Mail redirection service and consider registering with the mail preference service to prevent mail going to your old address
• If you store valuable documents at home, for example, passports, driving licence and bank statements, keep them hidden and secure. Never take these documents out with you unless you absolutely have to. If you store personal information on your PC, install up-to-date security software
• Remember the golden rule: identity thieves are experts at spotting an opportunity to steal your identity and all they need are a few personal details
CPP tell-tale signs your identity has been stolen
• Accounts on your credit report that don't belong to you
• Welcome letters from credit card/loan companies that for accounts you never opened
• Calls from debt collection agencies chasing you for money that you never borrowed
• Important post gone missing
• Refused credit
• Entries on your bank statements that you don't recognise