Millions fall victim to identity theftSome admit losing more than £10,000 to fraudsters

11 December 2006

A pair of credit cards and a mouse

More than four million people in the UK say they've fallen victim to identity fraud, according to a new report.

Research from Sainsbury's Bank said since 1999 incidents of identity fraud had increased by 500 per cent.

The crime - which involves fraudsters stealing personal documents or information in a bid to steal money, goods or services in your name - has hit an estimated 4.1 million consumers across the UK.

The average financial cost to victims interviewed by Sainsbury's Bank was £3,039.

But 6 per cent of victims said they had suffered losses of more than £10,000.

Identity fraud

However, despite the steep increase of identity fraud, people are still not doing enough to limit their chances of becoming a victim.

Research found that 16 per cent of consumers had thrown away old bank statements without shredding them within the last three months.

More than 10 per cent had discarded intact credit card/debit card receipts over the same time frame.

In addition, 3 per cent of people surveyed admitted to throwing away an old computer without first wiping or destroying the hard drive.

Phishing increase

It is believed that around three quarters of all household waste contains at least one item which could help identity fraudsters.

In September the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (Apacs) revealed a massive increase in ‘phishing’ over the past year.

Phishing involves crooks sending out emails that pretend to be from a bank or a genuine company operating on the Internet.

The emails urge you to click on a link to a bogus website that may look like a bank’s genuine site. You're then asked to enter your personal security information which criminals can use to access bank accounts.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group says that Unique Phish Site URLs rose 757 Percent between October 2005 and 2006

Which? has put together a report on how to protect your personal details online. It tells you what precautions to take when entering personal details into a website, how to make your internet browser work for you and how to protect yourself from spyware.