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Survey: '4 million' Brits stung by ID theft

Average cost to victims reaches £1,190

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Consumers continue to be complacent about identity theft despite growth of the crime, which has claimed four million victims in the UK alone.

The warning from the Metropolitan Police Service comes at the start of National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, which begins today. The seventh edition of the annual event aims to educate people and businesses about the scope of identity theft and its prevention.

According to research commissioned by paper-shredding kit supplier Fellowes, 7 per cent of the UK population (4 million people) have been victims of identity fraud at one time or another. According to the UK’s fraud prevention service CIFAS, 80,000 have been targeted this year. The average cost of an identity theft is £1,190, but some individuals have been stung to the tune of £9,000.

Operation Sterling – the Met's anti-fraud squad – is targeting students in particular in this year's round of awareness training, visiting university fresher weeks and running a conference in London on Wednesday for professionals working with students. The conference will discuss credit card crime and online fraud, among other topics.

The Met has drawn together a list of top tips for preventing identity fraud.

  • Check for unfamiliar transactions on bank statements.
  • Shred all documents containing sensitive information using a cross cut shredder before throwing them away – something Tory policy chief Oliver Letwin should bear in mind.
  • Investigate mail that goes missing.
  • Carry out regular personal credit report checks<./li>
  • Redirect post for at least six months when moving house.
  • Limit the amount of personal information shared when using social networking sites.

Jamey Johnson, head of Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting and advice centre, said: "Stealing an identity is just the beginning for a fraudster. With few details, accounts can be taken over, loans can be applied for and purchases can be made, all without the consent or knowledge of the individual, potentially costing the victim substantial sums of money. Last month alone (September) Action Fraud saw over £245,000 worth of loss due to identity theft. The worrying part is that this figure was generated from a limited amount of reports, suggesting the amount lost to ID theft would be much higher if more people were reporting."

Johnson added: "It is important to report a loss to Action Fraud, but it is more important to protect yourself from it happening in the first place. Limiting access to your personal information is the key to safety from ID fraud," she added.

More tips and advice on how to prevent identity fraud can be found on the campaign's website, www.stop-idfraud.co.uk, which contains advice aimed at consumers as well as a business guide. This week's National Identity Fraud Prevention Week campaign is sponsored by the Met Police, City of London Police, the National Fraud Authority, Equifax, CIFAS (the UK's Fraud Prevention Service), e-Crime Scotland, the Home Office and the Royal Mail, among others. ®

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