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New report reveals record levels of identity fraud

April 18th 2018

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released a new report identifying and detailing the fraud trends from over 300,000 cases of fraudulent conduct recorded in 2017. The data, from 306 organisations, including many major UK brands, is one of the most comprehensive pictures of fraud and fraudulent attempts in the UK. Although there has been an overall drop of 6% in cases recorded by Cifas members, the new figures show concerning increases in some areas.

For our information and expert advice about protecting your identity, click here

Key findings from the Cifas’ annual report Fraudscape include:

  - Identity fraud continued to rise, hitting an all-time high of 174,523 cases in 2017 (up 1% from 2016)

  - 95% of these cases involved the impersonation of an innocent victim

  - Eight out of 10 fraudulent applications were made online

  - There was a 27% increase in 14-24 year olds becoming ‘money mules’ 

  - Overall bank accounts identified as being used as ‘mule’ accounts were up by 11%

  - More than a third of bank account takeover victims were over 60-years-old

  - Organisations successfully prevented over £1.3 billion in fraud losses through non-competitive data sharing

The number of identity frauds increased once again in 2017, with almost 175,000 cases recorded. Although this was only a 1% increase compared with 2016, it represents a 125% increase compared with 10 years ago. The difference this year over previous years, is that the rise is not down to increases in fraudulent applications for plastic cards and bank accounts – which are the products most frequently targeted by identity fraudster – but targeting of other sectors such as telecoms, online retail and insurance.

This ‘retargeting’ by identity fraudsters can be seen as a shift towards more accessible products, such as mobile phone contracts, online retail accounts, retail credit loans and short-term loans.

Also increasing last year was the number of money mules – individuals who allow their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of illegal funds – a form of money laundering. Individuals are being targeted online by criminals promising ‘easy cash’ … or encouraged by an acquaintance to transfer funds for them in exchange for a payment. 

In 2017, Cifas members identified almost 11% more bank accounts that bear the hallmarks of money mule activity than they did in 2016 – over 32,000 cases. Criminals are continuing to target younger people – there was a 27% growth in the number of people aged 14-24 that have been identified as carrying out this type of fraud.

The findings also reveal that more than a third of victims of bank account takeovers were over 60, so age is a key consideration for facility hijackers when selecting who they target.

Cifas Deputy Chief Executive*, Mike Haley said: “It’s clear from this year’s Fraudscape that fraud in the UK continues to evolve. As some targets become harder to crack, criminals turn to what they consider are softer targets. Fortunately, many of these sectors such as telecoms and insurance, share their fraud data through Cifas and are detecting more fraud attempts. As fraudsters see their attempts to obtain these products become more difficult, the question will arise about where they will target next.”

“The small reduction in the overall number of detected frauds is welcome but it’s hard to say whether we are beginning to see the turning of the tide. The absolute volume of fraud is still frighteningly high and much more still needs to be done to reduce its prevalence, including greater collaboration and sharing of fraud risk data between industry, government, and law enforcement. Working together, organisations who are members of Cifas prevented over £1 billion worth of fraud last year and Cifas will continue to lead the way in the fight against fraud and financial crime.”

Conor Burns MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming said: “Fraud is the 21st century volume crime and the issue is not going to go away. With more and more people sharing data, transacting, setting up businesses, dating and chatting online this trend is only going to continue.

“That is why I set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming last year, to raise awareness of this issue within Parliament. Fraudscape shows how prevalent this crime is and all of us – government, industry, third sector and individuals have a role and responsibility in preventing it.”

Cifas supports the Take Five campaign, which asks consumers to help protect themselves from financial fraud by remembering some simple advice:

1.    Never disclose security details, such as your PIN or full password – it’s never right to reveal these details.

2.    Don’t assume an email request or caller is genuine – people aren’t always who they say they are.

3.    Don’t be rushed – a bank or genuine organisation won’t mind waiting to give you time to stop and think.

4.    Listen to your instincts – if something feels wrong then it is usually right to pause and question it.

5.    Stay in control – have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for information.

In response to increasing numbers of young people affected by fraud, last month Cifas and the PSHE Association launched four anti-fraud education lesson plans (targeted at 11-16 year olds) to raise awareness of this issue in schools.