New scheme helping to stop identity fraudOrganisations to access death records database

27 December 2008

A new scheme is hastening the demise of a cruel type of identity fraud that can
devastate grieving families and cost businesses millions of pounds a year.

ID Fraud

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Finance firms have hailed the release of the names of every person who has died in the UK each week as a pivotal step in the fight against fraudsters impersonating the dead. This type of fraud takes many forms; from criminals stealing the identities of dead people from obituaries for forged credit applications, to dishonest family members claiming pensions long after their relative has died.

Identity fraud protection service CIFAS believes this is one of Britain's most common forms of identity theft, while the Government estimates the cost of identity fraud to the UK economy is at least £1.2billion.

Since September the UK's three Registrars General have released around 140,000 death records to carefully vetted organisations to match against their clients' databases. Already tens of thousands of matches have been made against business records helping to prevent potential frauds.

One subscriber to the scheme administered by the General Register Office (GRO) estimates that at least one in 400 pensions are being claimed fraudulently by families despite their relatives having been dead for many years. 

Dead money

Mortality checks have even found a case where a woman was claiming her aunt's pension to pay a mortgage on a house ten years after the old woman had died at the age of 98.

In another case, a pension company was informed their client had died six weeks before the family informed them allowing them to stop payment immediately.

Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said: "The use of death records in this way will have a dramatic impact on fraudsters abusing people's deaths - a crime which causes financial and personal distress to both businesses and individuals alike.
"We're sending a strong message to criminals: if you try and steal the identity of someone who has died to commit fraud you will be found out."

Four firms – Tracesmart, Synectics Solutions, Experian and Faraday Tracing Bureau – have already been accredited to receive death register information with around a dozen more going through the stringent licensing process. Businesses can then submit records such as pension claims, insurance claims and credit applications to the licensees to find out if an individual is deceased.

© Press Association 2008

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