Data-driven identity crimes – ie frauds carried out using a victim’s identity details to obtain new accounts or take over existing ones – accounted for over 45% of all the confirmed frauds identified in the first three quarters of 2014. These figures issued by CIFAS continue the pattern seen in recent years, underlining the severity of the challenge facing consumers and businesses.
While identity fraud existed before the proliferation of online services, the use by online crooks of data such as passwords and e-mails or personal data harvested through hacking attacks and social engineering can now be considered the ‘norm’ in terms of fraud.
The 45% figure may represent a small decrease from some of the proportions recorded in previous years, but identity crimes represent as strong a challenge as ever to the financial well-being of organisations and consumers.
CIFAS’ communications manager Richard Hurley commented: “For the modern fraudster, knowing somebody’s personal or financial details is a licence to print money and the continuing preponderance of such data-driven financial crime must serve as a warning. Defeating it means we have to demand that organisations do more to handle our data securely, and ramp up their fraud prevention efforts accordingly. Individually, however, we also have a responsibility to look after our own details. Without doing so, we are effectively handing access to our bank accounts to a complete stranger.”
Victims of fraud must not be forgotten
Since 2010, there have consistently been over 100,000 instances of victimisation each year. The figures for 2014 to date indicate that this year will repeat the pattern, with almost 90,000 victims of identity crime already pinpointed by the organisations using the CIFAS National Fraud Database.
“Fraud is far from a victimless crime,” noted Hurley. “Not only do the victims suffer an immediate financial cost but they also have to contend with the time taken to sort out the mess left behind and the worry caused by not knowing how the fraudster managed to steal their details. While it’s understandable that a financial cost is always asked for in relation to fraud, it must be remembered that fraud has a far more lasting and personal impact upon victims. It’s one that cannot be summed up in terms of monetary value alone.”
While fraud may never be eliminated, figures such as these – and the patterns of recent years – prove that UK plc must become more aggressive in its approach to fraud prevention.
CIFAS CEO Simon Dukes explained: “While many organisations have put in place robust and comprehensive strategies designed to combat online crooks, and have empowered their customers to do the same, that doesn’t mean all organisations have done so.”
Dukes concluded: “Surely now every organisation and individual must recognise that if they don’t co-operate with others in terms of identifying and implementing good practice, data sharing and responsible online behaviour then they instantly become the weakest link in the chain. This means that they encourage fraudsters to continue their crimes, in turn damaging us all individually and collectively.”