While incidents of identity fraud and other incidents involving organized retail crime continue to thrive and increase every year, we must also keep in perspective that this is an international problem; and our peers “across the pond” are just as involved in overcoming these issues. The following article appeared in LP Magazine EU in 2015.
As a point of reference, CIFAS is a not-for-profit company working to protect businesses, charities, public bodies and individuals from financial crime. The company has more than 25 years of experience in fraud prevention and financial crime, working with a range of UK organizations to protect their customers and the public.
Recorded incidents of fraud continue to increase every year, and increased by 25 per cent last year, according to the 2015 report from the UK’s fraud prevention service – CIFAS.
In total there were 276,993 fraud cases recorded in 2014, compared to 221,075 in 2013.
The single biggest threat continues to be identity fraud – accounting for 41 per cent of all fraud recorded – when criminals abuse personal data or identity details to impersonate an innocent victim or to create fictitious identities to steal money.
Key identity fraud trends were:
- 113, 839 identity frauds recorded, a five per cent increase on 2013;
- The average age for identity fraud victims is 46, and men were 1.7 times more likely than women to have their identity stolen;
- Young adults are increasingly becoming targets – the number of young adult identity fraud victims aged 21 – 30 has increased by 51.7 per cent since 2011, from 9,789 to 14,850. This suggests that as digitally savvy young people enter their twenties and increase their access to financial products, they are increasingly at risk;
- Older groups are still at risk – there was a 15 per cent rise in the numbers of identity fraud victims aged over 55, with 25,346 in 2014 compared to 22,004 in 2013.
The rise in identity fraud was accompanied by a significant drop in takeover of accounts (where fraudsters hack into or “take over” existing accounts). These trends underline criminals’ ability to adapt; as it has become harder to take over existing accounts due to better security, criminals have shifted their attention to using other people’s identities, or creating entirely false identities, to open new ones.
By working across sectors, CIFAS member organisations prevented an estimated £1 billion worth of fraud in 2014. CIFAS fraud cases are streamed daily to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the City of London Police, for investigation.
Simon Dukes, CIFAS Chief Executive, commented: “The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals. This is crime at an industrial scale. We need to redouble our efforts to fight fraud across sectors and to educate consumers and people of all ages. Fraudsters don’t operate in silos, and neither can we. We also need better data – this data is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scale of fraud in the UK.”
The report makes a number of recommendations for 2016
- The UK needs a national measure of fraud losses and fraud levels. The Government, it suggests, needs to work with industry to re-establish this measure. Until we understand the scale of the loss, society cannot truly tackle it.
- Greater research is needed into the exact point at which data is compromised. CIFAS members cannot always know at what point their customers’ identities have been compromised and individuals often do not know themselves. Yet this information would be vital in focusing prevention efforts.
- Further research into the involvement of organised criminals in fraud. This year’s data provides further evidence that organised criminals are behind numerous fraud trends. More research is needed to verify and better understand the involvement of organised criminals in fraud and the extent to which money obtained through fraud is used to fund further criminal activity.
- A co-ordinated education and awareness campaign on fraud, led jointly by Government and industry. People of all ages need to be savvier to fraud, and fraudsters, in order to protect themselves better. Fraud trends suggest that some may be allowing their details and accounts to be used by criminals, without a full understanding of the seriousness of the crime.
- A comprehensive review of the sentencing guidelines for fraud. The public must have faith that when frauds are reported, criminals are punished appropriately. This will also encourage people to report fraud, adding to our overall understanding of the UK’s fraud profile.
The report is based on fraud cases from 245 CIFAS members. CIFAS members span a range of sectors and the data is a sound barometer for fraud trends in the UK. However it is not the full picture and the true numbers of frauds and victims will be higher.
This article first appeared in LP Magazine EU in 2015 and was updated in April 2016.