Altrincham is UK’s provincial identity fraud capital

Altrincham has become the top location for identity fraud in the UK outside certain parts of London.

The leafy Cheshire town recorded 13 fraud attempts for every 10,000 adults, with residents targeted at over three times the national average (four in every 10,000 adults). This compares with 11 attempts per 10,000 adults for London as a whole, although there are areas of the Capital with significantly higher rates of identity fraud.

Altrincham’s Greater Manchester neighbour Stretford, also appears in the UK’s top ten target location for fraudsters committing identity theft.

London as a whole experienced 11 attempts for every 10,000 adults, but with significantly higher rates in some inner-city boroughs such as East Ham which recorded 27 fraud attempts for every 10,000 adults in 2012 – the UK’s highest – with individuals targeted at almost seven times the national average. Residents in Romford and Bexleyheath were also targeted at around five times the national average. Additional hotspots are to be found in the London commuter towns of Hatfield, Dartford and Camberley although the previous rise in fraud in Thames Valley and the Home Counties has slowed overall in 2012.

Our Mosaic geo-demographic profiling analysis reveals that victims of identity theft are highest among the inner-city ‘Terraced Melting Pot’ group, typically those living in mixed urban neighbourhoods with low to middle incomes.

The research also reveals that identity fraud victims are being targeted from more affluent towns in the vicinity of the UK’s major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and London.  These residents fall into the ‘New Homemakers’ Mosaic group, and comprise younger couples living in new starter homes on the outskirts of major towns and cities, typically with average incomes and a high demand for credit.

It comes as no surprise that the Capital remains a target for third-party fraudsters – particularly around densely populated inner-city boroughs where identities are easier to steal. However, fraudsters are clearly attracted to rich pickings in more affluent areas, where access to an identity might be harder to obtain but the prize makes it worth the extra effort. In this respect, more affluent locations in close proximity to major cities such as Altrincham in Cheshire, Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, Hatfield and St Albans by London, have become key targets for identity thieves. Clearly identity theft is not just confined to inner-city areas but is a UK-wide problem and a symptom of tougher economic times, highlighting the need for people everywhere to be increasingly vigilant.

Our analysis of first-party fraud shows that, generally, it is those on low incomes, with thin or empty credit files, who are attempting to ease their financial position by misrepresenting applications or making exaggerated claims over their income and personal circumstances. However, a significant proportion of first-party fraud is now being perpetrated by the ‘Liberal Opinions’ Mosaic group. Typically these are young, well educated professionals living and working in London and other major cities.

Across the financial services sector as a whole, it is vital that firms and other providers of credit recognise the financial and reputational risks associated with fraud, and put in place increasingly sophisticated identity verification and anti-fraud measures to combat the threat. Fraud prevention and detection tools which allow organisations to detect, monitor and assess risk will help firms identify anomalies within applications and check for signs of adverse credit histories. Individuals also have a role to play fighting the fraudsters by taking steps to protect their personal information.

The Fraud Index is based on data derived from National Hunter and Insurance Hunter, the UK’s leading fraud prevention systems, operated by Experian on behalf of members. These systems enable financial institutions to cross-match applications against over 100 million previous application records in order to spot commonalities and anomalies that are potentially indicative of fraud for further investigation.