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Number of identity fraud cases up 9% in 2012

Tahmina Mannan
Written By:
Tahmina Mannan

Cases of reported identity fraud rose 9% last year to 124,000, with total fraud cases up 5%, a report reveals.

Identity related crimes, where criminals misuse the personal data of victims, accounted for 65% of all fraud confirmed in 2012, according to the research from CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service.

Fraudulent misuse of an account was the second most common type of fraud with many instances carrying all the hallmarks of ‘money mule’ schemes.

A ‘money mule’ is someone recruited by fraudsters who need to launder funds they have obtained illegally.

The report also found that 80% of all identity related crime was commited online, confirming the importance of the internet to the modern fraudster.

Richard Hurley, CIFAS communications manager, said: “Fraud is a complex subject, affected by a wide range of factors, and the variations recorded during 2012 are proof of that.

“The role of organised crime and what this actually means, consumer awareness, the economic situation in the UK, changing business practices and the rapid development of digital technologies are just a few of the influencing factors.”

Meanwhile, geographical analysis conducted with Ordnance Survey dispelled the myth that people living in flats are more likely to fall victim to identity fraud.

In fact victims of fraud are most likely to live in large urban areas, while the report suggests those who have been victims of an ‘account takeover’ are far more geographically spread out.

According to Action Fraud, an ‘account takeover’ can happen when a fraudster or computer criminal poses as a genuine customer, gains control of an account and then makes unauthorised transactions.

Hotspots of fraudulent activity have also been identified in the Gosport/Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Peterborough and Manchester regions during 2012, together with Dover and the Malvern Hills.

Bank, credit card and mail order accounts remained the products most frequently targeted by fraudsters, though the ever expanding range of products means that fraud against bank accounts decreased in 2012 while fraud against loans and credit cards notably increased.

Here is an extensive list of types of fraud to help you prevent yourself from falling prey to financial crime.



Fraudster methods

There are various tactics fraudsters are known to use in order to harvest personal data via the internet.

Some of the most notable include:

Phishing: the mass distribution of emails which appear to originate from legitimate sources (e.g. banks, charities, government departments) which direct victims to fake websites, install malware or encourage recipients to reveal personal information which is then collected by the fraudster.

Malware: malicious software that infects a victim’s computer. It can capture private information stored on the computer and send it to the fraudsters. Notable types include spyware (a type that collects little bits of information such as websites visited, passwords etc) and trojans (programmes that may appear to be legitimate but act maliciously – often giving fraudsters remote access to your computer).

Hacking: a means of attacking the computer systems of organisations or individuals in order to obtain personal details or other sensitive information.

Social Engineering: the manipulation of situations, to encourage people to divulge personal or confidential information. Notable examples have included the use of social networking and dating sites: where the fraudster uses an alias to strike up a rapport with the victim before requesting money or details. Clearly, anyone employing such tactics to obtain personal data can be considered to be acting in a highly organised manner with clear criminal intent.

Source – CIFAS, Fraudscape, March 2013