London is the country’s identity theft capital, with significantly higher rates than anywhere else in the UK.
The statistics are based on the number of fraudulent applications across key financial products. They include current accounts, loans, mortgages, savings accounts, insurance, automotive and credit cards.
The figures focus for the first time on how fraud is concentrated in different parts of London and reveal that both inner and outer London are by far the most targeted areas in the country.
Outer London topped the regional list with 34 cases of identity fraud for every 10,000 adults. Central London followed closely behind with 33 cases of identity fraud for every 10,000 adults. This compares with the next highest rate of identity theft which was in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, with a mere 12 in every 10,000.
The news follows the latest UK-wide fraud analysis from Experian which shows that identity theft has become the most prevalent form of fraud for the first time since the recession. Between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014, the rate of third party fraud rose steadily and now accounts for 52 per cent of all detected, and therefore prevented, fraudulent applications. In particular, this was spearheaded by a 20 per cent increase in third party current account fraud as identity thieves looked to test the security in place following the introduction of the seven day switching scheme.
The diverse cross-section of demographics in London means that many areas are a prime target. The affluent suburbs are attractive targets for high level frauds, whilst high density blocks of flats with communal mail boxes can offer identity thieves an easy way in to gain people’s information.
The good news is that more and more of these frauds are being spotted as the financial services sector continues to innovate in the fight against fraud. However, with fraudsters’ methods becoming increasingly more sophisticated, tackling this type of crime needs to remain a priority for all providers.
People must also ensure that they take their own measures to safeguard themselves. They can be extra vigilant when using financial products online, making sure they are on the electoral register so their identity can be verified quickly. They can also take simple steps such as asking their landlord for a secure letterbox if they live in large blocks of flats.
Experian advises six key steps people should consider to help avoid identity theft:
1. Online passwords
Always use secure, unique passwords for as many online accounts as possible, and ideally all of them. At the very least have a unique password for each type of service provider such as financial services, retail services and email.
Don’t be tempted to open emails, links or attachments received from people you don’t know. If an email seems suspicious, contact the relevant organisation and don’t give out personal details.
3. Account details
Don’t store account names and passwords on your smartphone, either in email, as a note, or to ‘autocomplete’ when you open a website or app. It will be a goldmine for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen.
4. Social websites
Be cautious and don’t add people you don’t know. Remember what you might consider to be unimportant information like your birthday, email address or dog’s name could all be misused by criminals.
5. Be credit wise
Monitor your credit report, bank account and card statements regularly – it will help you spot any suspicious activity as early as possible and avoid financial loss.
6. Know where your details go
Finally, if you think you don’t protect your personal online information as you should, services like Experian’s web monitoring tool can help. Available through Experian CreditExpert, it will monitor the web for mentions of your personal information 24/7, sending you an instant notification if your information appears somewhere new online. This helps ensure you can take immediate steps to resolve any potential fraudulent activity before you are negatively affected.
For more information about fraud prevention, please click here.