UK identity fraud figures at their highest ever

Identity fraud in the UK is at its highest level ever, according to figures from leading UK fraud prevention service Cifas. 172,919 cases of identity fraud were recorded in the UK in 2016. That’s just a small rise on the 169,592 cases recorded in 2015. And, for 2016, that’s 473 cases of identity fraud recorded per calendar day. The National Co-ordinator for economic crime, Commander Chris Greany says that, “with close to half of all crime now either fraud or cyber crime, we all need to make sure we protect our identity.” And here’s the interesting thing about fraud figures. Compare that figure on UK identity fraud with FCA figures on UK scams: The FCA says that, in the six months between July 2016 and January 2017, “the FCA received 2,748 reports of scams or unauthorised firms to its website.” That works out as just under 5.5k scams reported every year. That’s 15 scams recorded per calendar day. And that means all sorts of scams across all sorts of sectors, including goods not arriving, counterfeit goods, premium rate texts, up-front payments, “vishing” for financial details over the phone, fake services and, of course, investment scams. So pension scams, despite their significance in high value, are just a fraction of the volume of all scams (although not to a documented extent). So here’s the astonishing conclusion: As a UK citizen, you are over 30 times more likely to be the victim of identity fraud than investment fraud. There’s 473 recorded cases of identity fraud per day Versus 15 recorded scams (all types of scams) per day. These are just two figures and cannot therefore be taken to be definitive. And, as with all statistics, all manner of conditions apply to their formulation. But it remains the case that these figures are facts from unimpeachable authorities – Cifas & the FCA. And identity fraud is over 30 times more common than pension fraud; that’s astonishing because that’s not the way it feels in the media. Maybe because investment scams (and especially pension scams) tend to involve much higher sums of cash, we seem to hear disproportionately more about pension fraud than identity fraud:

  • The average amount lost per identity fraud in 2015 was £1200.
  • The average amount lost per pension fraud in the six months after the Pension Freedoms of April 2015 was £163,000 (Action Fraud/

Certainly both types of fraud have attracted strong attempts to raise awareness amongst the British public: A high-profile campaign educating consumers about pension-scamming was launched in March 2016. This “Scorpion” campaign was refreshed in March 2017 and continues to enjoy support from numerous stakeholders, including the Department for Work and Pensions, The Pensions Regulator, The Pensions Advisory Service, Money Advice Service, Financial Conduct Authority, Serious Fraud Office, HMRC, Action Fraud, National Crime Agency and City of London Police. Identity fraud also received backing in 2016 with the #notwithmyname campaign, backed by various stakeholders, including Cifas.

Who is most likely to fall foul of identity fraud?

Identity fraud has surged by almost 100,000 cases a year in under a decade – from 78,000 reported cases in 2008 to 172,000 in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016 the number of under-21 year olds targeted for identity fraud rose by 34%. But youngsters make up a tiny proportion of identity fraud victims, with only 1803 cases amongst under-21 year olds in 2016 compared with hardest-hit 41-50 year olds, who suffered 34,010 cases (a rise of less than 1% on 2015). Regionally speaking, it is predictably London which hosts the lion’s share of identity frauds. The capital’s total fell by 8% from 56,081 in 2015 to 51,532 in 2016. In second place by a long way was the South East region, which claimed 23,169 cases of identity fraud in 2016.

How do identity fraudsters get hold of my identity?

Identity fraud begins when somebody uses your name to buy something or take out a loan. You may know nothing of the crime until you get a bill through the post or difficulties getting credit. 88% of identity fraud takes place online. Fraudsters need your name, address, date of birth and bank details. They can get this information by:

Stealing your physical mail

Make sure you shred financial papers before throwing away. If you move house, make sure to have your mail forwarded for six months so valuable personal details on bills do not fall into the wrong hands.

Hacking your bank/email accounts

Keep anti-virus software up to date. Have different, high-strength passwords for different accounts. Don’t use banking apps on public wi-fi.

Tracking social media accounts

Check your privacy settings in your app’s settings. On web profiles like Facebook or LinkedIn, don’t post your address and try not to post your date of birth.


Your bank will never ring you on the phone asking for account details and PINs – but a scamster might. A genuine caller will have no problem with ringing back when correct authentication has been established somehow, sometimes by emailing credentials.

Top 5 tips to avoid pension scams (from 2017 Government Scorpion campaign)

TIP 1:

If you think you’ve been scammed – act immediately! You might be able to stop a transfer that hasn’t taken place yet.

TIP 2:

Cold called about your pension? Hang up! Unsolicited phone calls, text or emails about your pension are nearly always scams.

TIP 3:

Deals to look out for. Beware of unregulated investments offering ‘guaranteed returns’. These include exotic sounding investments like hotels, vineyards or other overseas ventures.

TIP 4:

Using an adviser? Make sure they’re registered with the FCA. Scammers sometimes pose as financial advisers.

TIP 5:

Don’t let a friend talk you into an investment – check everything yourself. People have fallen for scams because they’d been recommended by a friend.

Top 5 tips to avoid identity scam (from cifas 2017 fraud bulletin)

TIP 1:

Set your privacy settings across all the social media channels you use. And just think twice before you share details – in particular your full date of birth, your address, contacts details – all this information can be useful to fraudsters!

TIP 2:

Password protect your devices. Keep your passwords complex by picking three random words, such as roverducklemon and add or split them with symbols, numbers and capitals:R0v3rDuckLemon

TIP 3:

Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date. MoneySavingExpert have a recommended list of the best free anti-virus software

TIP 4:

Take care on public wi-fi – fraudsters hack them or mimic them. If you’re using one, avoid accessing sensitive apps such as mobile banking.

TIP 5:

Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features. “There are three simple steps that anyone can take to protect themselves,” says Cifas Deputy Chief Executive Mike Haley: “use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted on your devices; and avoid using public wi-fi for banking and online shopping.”

What is Cifas?

Cifas is a powerful anti-fraud force in the UK. Cifas is a non-for-profit organisation that focuses on sharing fraud data “to make the UK a safer place to do business.” Cifa has over 360 member organisations in both public and private sectors.

But what if I still end up as a victim of identity fraud?

Be aware that you might be being hacked at any time. Be aware, and you are in a position to end any activity swiftly: Cifas advises consumers to act fast if:

  • They receive mail, usually a bill, that suggests they have an account with a company that they do not know; specifically commercial contracts for loans and phone, as well as mortgages.
  • Money has apparently been withdrawn from a bank account without permission.
  • A phoney passport or driving license with a consumer’s personal details turns up.

and to then check their credit report online for any discrepancies with their own activity. Be suspicious to be smart. If you think somebody is actively using your personal details, your next port of call could be to your financial adviser/accountant – just to check that your eyes are not deceiving you or, better, to seek some up-to-the-minute advice. Take your papers along and see if he/she agrees with your diagnosis. And remember: time is of the essence. Contact to scope out all your options – both legally and financially. Seek help – and make sure justice is done. And, if you do get nailed by identity fraud, perhaps take some comfort from the fact that you’re not alone. Action Fraud figures suggest that one in four of us have had our identities used fraudulently at some point.

How much do scams and frauds cost?

  • On average scams cost victims £2,500 (2016 CAB figures).
  • Investment scams in particular net huge gains at an average of £20k per scam. (2016 CAB figures).
  • Pension scams take the biscuit with an average £163,000 netted per scam in first six months after pension freedoms of April 2015. (Action Fraud figures).
  • Identity scams net on average £1200 (2015 Action Fraud figures).

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