The government has been urged to do more to tackle the growing threat of identity fraud which has already hit more than one in four Britons.
The call came as Euro-MPs launched moves for cross-border coordination of efforts to prevent criminals stealing individual identities as a cover for their crimes.
Last year it was estimated that 18 million British homes were under threat because people were failing to take simple steps to render their private information unusable.
Now a new report by one of Europe’s leading identity fraud experts, Professor Martin Gill of Leicester University, says that tackling identity offences is currently hampered by a lack of official data about the scale of the problem.
It says public awareness should be stepped up and European cooperation improved to tackle the problem.
Professor Gill said: ‘Identify theft and fraud takes many forms. What we do know is that offenders find it easy and history has shown that they are effective at responding to opportunities – in the criminal world news travels fast.’
Conservative MEP Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘In the UK alone more than one in four people are affected by identity theft and with the number of victims rising every year it is clear that more needs to be done to raise people’s awareness of this issue.
‘The UK Government has taken steps to combat this growing threat, but more could and should be done. I strongly urge the UK Government to raise awareness amongst consumers and businesses of the steps that they can take to protect themselves.’
Here are our top tips to avoid ID fraud:
- Make sure that you are not using your mother’s maiden name or place of birth as a security password
- Check your credit file annually (and especially just after you’ve moved). If you change address, make sure you pass on your new details to your bank and anyone else who sends you post. You should also ask Royal Mail to redirect post
- Don’t just toss your old post straight in the bin. Rip it up, burn it in the garden or buy a shredder. Be especially careful with ‘pre-approved’, partly filled-in bank credit forms
- Never use the same password for more than one account. If you bank online, use a different password for other websites
- Try not to carry details of your home address along with your bank cards in a purse or wallet. This also applies to your driving licence. Don’t carry it unless you specifically need it that day. Even if you are stopped by the police, you have seven days to present i