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ID theft nets £85,000 a head: study

Lawyers a prime target

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Identity fraud can net criminals £85,000 for each identity stolen, research has found. That is the average amount criminals can expect to gain from impersonating someone in the UK, according to anti-ID theft company Garlik.

Garlik was founded by Tom Ilube and Mike Harris, who founded internet bank Egg, and it commissioned research from consultancy 1871 Ltd which uncovered the value of a single fake identity. It also discovered that lawyers are a main target of ID fraudsters.

The research found that most people's perceptions of how identity fraud works are wrong. The fraudster commonly does not empty bank accounts but applies for new credit as another person so that that person may not discover for some time they are being impersonated.

"The industry of identity theft is much more organised than you might think, it is actually quite structured," Ilube told OUT-LAW Radio, the weekly technology law podcast. "There are people who focus their attention on collecting information, they then sell that information on to people who are then going to go on and exploit it."

1871 interviewed a number of fraudsters to investigate their methods and uncovered the £85,000 figure. "It is possible to quantify how much the average UK citizen is worth to an identity fraudster," said Ilube.

The Home Office has estimated that ID theft and fraud costs the UK economy £1.7bn a year, while Sainsbury's Bank found that 4m people in the UK have had some experience of ID fraud.

A number of financial services products are emerging which are designed to deal with the problem. Garlik's first product, Data Patrol, monitors the web for financial information relating to customers.

Sainsbury's Bank, which is a joint venture between the supermarket chain and Halifax Bank of Scotland, provides credit application alerts so that you know if someone other than you is applying for credit in your name. It also operates a case management team service to help you prove that you were not behind any fraudulent transactions.

"The fraud is really against the bank, it's not against you, which causes all sorts of problems for you if you're the victim of ID fraud because it's a very ambiguous position for the police to be in because the level of support that they can provide you with is fairly limited because there's been no crime committed against you," said Don McLeod, credit manager with Sainsbury's Bank.

"We would direct you to our victims of fraud team which is a dedicated case management team," said McLeod. "They would take your case on and look to have your file cleared and get your credit history restored and ensure that all these other loans and applications that have been made in your name are all cleared and everything is restored to the position it should be."

Ilube said lawyers are a particular target for fraudsters because so much information about them is in the public domain.

"The types of people that are particularly attractive to credit card fraudsters are lawyers because they tend to be high earning, they tend to have quite a lot of information about themselves in the public domain [and] it's very easy to find names and addresses and phone numbers," he said.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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