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Internet Identity Theft

National Identity Fraud Prevention Week or Was it "Identity Theft for Dummies?" - page 2


  By Vincent Woodall

            Information as discarded above can, as the Home Office point out, be used to open bank accounts, obtain credit and debit cards, store cards or benefits or services in the victim’s name.

           Such information may be used to establish mobile telephone or utility accounts or take out loans.

           An identity thief could open a bank account and write bad cheques in the victim’s name.

           Credit reference agency Experian’s research shows that the people most likely to be the victims of identity theft include young professionals and middle-aged families living in central London with office and service jobs.  These groups are twice as likely to be victims of identity fraud.

           Those who earn over £60,000 are almost three times more likely to be victims of identity fraud and the better-off in the suburbs are four times more likely to be victims of identity fraud.

           An identity thief could give your name to the police during an arrest.  If they are released and fail to show up at a later court hearing, a warrant for the victim’s arrest could be issued.

           Identity thieves even steal the identities of deceased people.

           If you use a mailbox rather than a letterbox you are more likely to have your mail stolen

           London is the UK’s identity theft hot spot.  A quarter of all identity theft  cases have taken place in the capital this year.  Experian reveals that Londoners are twice as likely to become victims of identity theft as the average UK region.

           Enfield residents are more than twice as likely to become victims of identity theft as the average London borough.  Enfield is followed by Bexley and Harrow in second and third places respectively.

           Identity thieves will intercept victim’s mail, telephone victims pretending to be from their bank, send out “phishing” emails asking the intended victim to click on a link and generally “reconfirm” personal details. 

             Amongst many other tales of stolen identity, there is the story of the woman from Ipswich who received more than 50 unpaid parking fines notices totalling thousands of pounds, from several London boroughs.  Despite the fact that she had never held a driving licence, a fraudster had been able to register his vehicle in her name and run up parking fines.

           Your mother’s maiden name can be particularly useful to an identity thief.

           Anyone can apply for a copy of your birth certificate or driving licence.  With a birth certificate, a fraudster will know your mother’s maiden name, and can acquire a passport in your name.  Include public records like the Land Registry, Companies House and the Electoral Roll and there’s not a lot about you that can’t be discovered.

           Identity thieves can get your mail redirected, or apply for credit cards using your name and your real address as the former address on the application.  Mobile phone accounts, loans, overdrafts – all can be taken out in your name.

           Capital one (the credit card company) carried out research that showed that 43 per cent of people did not remember to redirect their mail when they moved house.  Only five per cent of those that did redirected it for more than a year.

           A research company, Populus, found that 40 per cent of those polled feared being a victim of identity fraud more than pickpocketing, mugging or burglary – and rightly so if the statistics are anything to go by.

           There is a case of identity fraud every four minutes, according to Professor Martin Gill, a criminologist at the University of Leicester.  Professor Gill interviewed five criminals as part of a study into identity theft commissioned by Capital One, the loan company.  One thief preyed on flats with shared mailboxes, which make it easier for mail to be stolen.  Another used mail addressed to the former resident of her flat to open a credit account.

           Two identity thieves admitted to bribing delivery men into parting with items.

             Unattended handbags were also a useful source for thieves.  Capital One’s data suggested more than 3 million people regularly carried their bank statements with them, 4.9 million carried their payslips, and 3.4 million took their passports around with them.  Around 7 million people admit to leaving bags and briefcases unattended in public places.  Professor Gill said criminals who got an illegitimate credit or debit card found it easy to use them.  Signature checks were reportedly lax.  Some male perpetrators even managed to use cards bearing female identities.

           A thief can spend freely with a stolen credit card until it is reported stolen or lost.  Even then, they can be used as identification to acquire store cards in your name.  This is because at present shops issuing store-cards are denied access to the banks’ hot card file of stolen card numbers.

             According to the BBC’s news website, Fraudsters bribe burglars and postmen for bank statements, which contain enough data to open new accounts and take out fraudulent loans in your name.

           “The Money Programme” was told by a convicted fraudster, Glenn Davies, now in jail, about his role in a nationwide ring of identity thieves, which utilises private financial information, supplied by corrupt bank staff.

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