Illegal trading of personal info hits record highID fraudsters trading data like never before

17 July 2012

ID Fraud

12 million pieces of personal information were traded by ID fraudsters in the first three months of 2012 – a fivefold increase since 2010.

This reflects the rise in ID fraud cases - 2012 is shaping up to be a record year, with 36,000 reported cases in the first three months. Two million UK adults have now fallen victim to ID fraud.

Read our ID fraud guide for advice on how to avoid it and what to do if you're a victim of ID theft.

Online fraud

While traditional paths to committing fraud such as intercepting mail and stealing important paper documents remain, the importance of the internet to the ID fraudster is now clear. As the new figures show,vast amounts of data are stolen and traded, usually online by large criminal networks. Furthermore, about three quarters of all ID fraud has the hallmarks of being enabled and carried out online, according to CIFAS, the UK's fraud prevention service.

Our online presence

The new figures also reflect our growing presence online. Adults have an average of 26 online profiles on various websites, with an increasing willingness to share personal information. As a recent Which? investigation showed, this is sometimes done without adequate privacy protection settings in place.

At the same time, however, a Which? poll carried out in May showed that 61% are concerned about strangers accessing information they've posted.


Being a victim of ID fraud can be a harrowing experience. Some common consequences are:

  • Being refused a loan or credit card
  • Having debts run up in own name
  • Being declined for a mobile phone contract
  • Being pursued by debt collectors

The time taken to sort out the mess can also be considerable. According to CIFAS, it typically takes victims between 3 to 48 hours of work to clear their name.

Christopher Christoforou, Which? computer security expert, said: 'A fivefold increase in fraudulent personal information trading is another worrying ID fraud statistic, and a stark warning that we should all be extra vigilant online. Good security software, a strong password strategy and being careful with what is posted online are good first steps.'

More on this...

  • Protect yourself from ID fraud - read our top tips and stay safe both online and offline
  • Choose Best Buy security software - see our guide to software and read reviews of over 20 packages
  • Online security - our full guide to protecting yourself online