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Lax Security Blamed For Identity Fraud Rise

(c) Sky News 2012

New figures have revealed a dramatic rise in online identity fraud as British people sign up to increasing numbers of websites.

Identity fraudsters traded some 12 million pieces of personal information between January and April this year.

That outstripped the whole of 2010 when 9.5 million pieces were traded illegally and marks a fivefold increase in just two years.

According to credit check firm Experian (Dusseldorf: J2B.DU - news) , 90% of the data illegally traded in the first four months of 2012 were password and login combinations.

This dramatic surge is being blamed on spiralling numbers of online accounts, with the average Briton now holding 26 accounts.

That number is even higher among 25 to 34-year-olds who have around 40.

And the alarming rise in internet fraud shows no signs of slowing, with nearly one in five of us - 17% - signing up to six or more new sites a month.

Despite the proliferation of accounts, Britons on average use just five different passwords to protect their details.

One in 25 of us even use the same login details for all their profiles.

Peter Turner, managing director at Experian Consumer Services, said: "The reason password and login combinations make up nine out of 10 illegally traded pieces of data is because they give access to a huge amount of other valuable information, such as address books and related accounts.

"Using a different password for each account will minimise risks, but if password information is stolen from a website, all accounts using the same details will be compromised, and this information can spread among fraudsters rapidly."

Some two million people have fallen victim to identity fraud. Consequences include debts being run up in their name and difficulty obtaining loans or credit cards.