The number of fraudsters reported as taking on someone else’s identity was up 37% compared to the year before, says financial market research specialists Experian.
More than 13,000 cases were reported in 2013 – at the rate of almost 1,100 a month or 35 every day in Britain alone.
Identity theft includes taking over bank or investment accounts; taking out loans in someone else’s name or running up bogus mobile phone bills.
Researchers believe the big increase in identity fraud is linked to lax online security habits.
How to beat the fraudsters
When asked, 10% of online users confessed they never change their passwords and 5% have the same password for all their online accounts.
The report also revealed that most people do not realise they are victims of fraud until almost a year after the crime starts.
Pete Turner, managing director of Experian Consumer Services, said: “The number of identity theft cases is rising fast, but it’s not all bad news.
“Banks and other financial institutions are getting better at detecting fraud and stopping a lot of these false transactions before the crooks get away with any cash. That means fewer people are suffering a loss despite the rising number of crimes.”
To beat the fraudsters, the firm recommends online users:
- Shred financial documents before putting them out as rubbish
- Regularly change online passwords
- Don’t pick easy passwords like birthdays or pet names
- Don’t input payment details into unencrypted sites – encrypted ones display a padlock icon in the browser
Warnings about bogus advisers
The FCA has also issued these warnings about bogus firms posing as regulated financial advisers:
- Loan.co.uk (clone web site)
Dealing with an unregulated firm
If you buy shares, save money or invest with an unregulated firm, you lose any protection offered by the Financial Ombudsman and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Broadly, you have no independent place to complain if the deal goes wrong and are unlikely to win any compensation.
Checking if a firm is regulated
Go to the Financial Services Register to check if a firm is regulated in the UK.
Reporting a suspected bogus adviser