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Beware online fraudsters stealing your identity: bogus insurance applications rocket by 10,000pc

Amelia Murray
Case of identity fraud rose by 5pc since last year, with the majority of cases taking place online - This content is subject to copyright.

The number of reported cases of identity fraud has hit a record high and is now at "epidemic levels", according to Britain's leading fraud prevention service.

Cifas recorded 89,000 cases in the first six months of this year, an increase of 5pc from the year before.

Most of the identity frauds (83pc) were committed online and saw criminals applying for loans, bank accounts, credit cards and insurance with someone else's stolen details.

Fraudulent insurance applications saw the most dramatic increase. Between January and June last year, Cifas received just 20 reports - this year the number increased by 10,250pc to 2,070, as shown in the chart below.

Changes in identity fraud cases

Cases of identity fraudsters applying for telecoms services such as mobile phone contracts or purchasing items from online retailers in their victim's name increased by 61pc and 56pc respectively.

Fraudulent bank account and plastic card applications have fallen since last year, but these cases still account for more than half of all identity fraud cases.

Cifas saw the biggest increase in identity fraud cases in younger people. Last year, 684 under-21s filed reports but this year the number rose to 1,023. By contrast, the number of cases involving people over the age of 60 fell by 6.2pc, from 14,172 to 13,294. 

Age breakdown of identity fraud victims

As previously reported by The Telegraph, experts have suggested that young people are now more likely to be targeted by identity fraudsters because they are too busy to check their bank statements or log into their online accounts. 

How are criminals getting hold of your details?

Fraudsters need just three pieces of information to steal your identity - and most can be found on Facebook and other social media websites.

Once they have your name, date of birth and address they can attempt to take out loans and credit cards, enter into contracts or set up other accounts. 

Additional details such as bank and other account information can be bought on the "dark web", the criminal side of the internet, for little cost, or obtained through "social engineering". This is where victims are tricked into revealing personal information to someone who appears to be from a trusted party such as a bank, the police, the council, a retailer or an employer.

Telegraph Money has written extensively about social engineering scams including "phishing", where criminals con victims over email, and "vishing", which involves people being tricked over the phone.

It is becoming much more difficult to spot fake emails that purport to be from legitimate organisations, so we've given examples here. In some cases, it's better just to delete the suspicious email and call the company from the number listed on their website.

Even old-fashioned letters are not safe. In a particularly elaborate phishing scam, fraudsters sent letters supposedly from Lloyds Bank to Mark Winterton and other directors at his firm, a plant hire company in Somerset.

The letters looked official and advised the recipients to call the bank on a number given to discuss some "unusual transactions". When the number was dialed, the caller was advised to enter personal details including their sort code and account number before being put through to an "adviser". Mr Winterton said the scam was "impressively scary".

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However, the majority of identity fraud is taking place online because of the vast amounts of personal data available.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas, said identities were being stolen "at a rate of almost 500 a day", which he described as an "epidemic". He said that relying on new fraud prevention technology "is not enough".

Cifas suggested setting social media accounts to private, taking care on public wi-fi and making sure passwords are strong. It's also crucial not to reuse the same passwords - Telegraph Money has explained the risk here.

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