Identity fraud reaching 'epidemic' levels in the UK
23 August 2017 15:19 GMT

The UK saw a record 89,000 cases of identity fraud in the first six months of the year, according to Cifas, with experts saying biometrics are a potential solution.

Cifas said the crimes were taking place almost exclusively online, and that the vast amount of personal data available on the internet and as a result of data breaches “is only making it easier for the fraudster”.

Simon Dukes, the Cifas chief executive, said: “We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year, now reaching epidemic levels, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day … Criminals are relentlessly targeting consumers and businesses, and we must all be alert to the threat and do more to protect personal information.”

Identity fraud is one of the fastest-growing types of cybercrime, and experts say criminals are using increasingly sophisticated tactics. Fraudsters have increasingly been hacking into email accounts and then posing as a builder, solicitor or other tradesperson that the consumer has legitimately employed. Some customers have lost considerable sums after being duped into sending money to the bank accounts of criminals.

To carry out this kind of crime successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address and bank. Fraudsters get hold of this in a variety of ways, from stealing letters and hacking emails to obtaining data on the “dark web”, and exploiting some people’s willingness to share every detail of their life on social media.

Industry insiders say biometrics are an important weapon against identity theft.

Bryan Campbell, senior security researcher at Fujitsu UK&I, said to Computer Business Review: 

“The obvious thing to do is to create strong and varied passwords across each application. However, given the rising sophistication of cyber-crime, new technologies such as biometrics are set to rise. For some time now we’ve been familiar with biometrics as a way to unlock phones with a thumb print as one example, and as such consumers are increasingly warming to biometric authentication, even as a way of making financial transactions. There is no silver bullet for stopping identity fraud for good, but from contactless palm vein scanning to iris scanners; biometrics is essential for protecting both consumers and organisations in a data driven world.”

Experts also say that the public needs to change their behaviour to prevent such attacks.

Phil Beckett, Managing Director of Global Disputes and Investigations at Alvarez and Marsal, said: “The UK anti-fraud organisation Cifas recently released statistics highlighting that identities were being stolen at the rate of almost 500 a day. This is a truly shocking statistic and highlights how much at risk we are all in in today’s online world."

"More importantly than anything is not to get complacent or be ignorant of the threat.  A good starting point on this is to perform a holistic vulnerability assessment based on one of the well-defined frameworks that provides an organisation with a benchmarked assessment of their controls and readiness as well as a path to improvement."