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Identity theft warning as scams almost double over last year

By Alan Beresford

Some simple precautions can help keep you safe from identity fraud.
Some simple precautions can help keep you safe from identity fraud.

THE public is being urged to look out for signs of their personal information being misused as the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) finds a rise in scams fuelled by identity theft.

Reports of insurance fraud resulting from stolen identities provided to the IFB by UK insurers, police and regulators have nearly doubled in the past 12 months.

Stolen identities are highly valuable to criminals as they can be used for a range of harmful scams, leaving victims in financial hardship and emotional distress.

In an urgent bid to protect more people from being targeted, the IFB has launched a campaign to encourage the public to be vigilant.

Ursula Jallow, Director at the IFB, said: “We’ve seen a worrying rise in insurance fraud made possible by identity theft.

“Stolen personal information can be used for every financial crime imaginable, and victims of impersonation who are often elderly or vulnerable, face devastating consequences.

“We urge everyone to be cautious when sharing personal details and to spread the word to their friends and family. If anyone thinks their information has been used in an insurance scam, they should report it to our confidential CheatLine.”

The IFB often finds that drivers who are cheaper to insure are frequently impersonated by Ghost Brokers, who take out policies in victims’ names and doctor these to sell them on at higher prices.

Misrepresented motor insurance policies are also used by fraudsters to facilitate dangerous Crash for Cash scams and to insure vehicles linked to serious crime.

In a recent IFB investigation with Hertfordshire Police, it was found that hundreds of identities had been stolen by a gang who took out fraudulent motor insurance policies to steal brand new cars from dealerships via finance deals.

In another investigation, the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) and the IFB suspected that a gang had impersonated over 200 people – from personal to commercial policyholders - to either make bogus claims in their names and divert funds to third parties, or pretend victims had caused collisions to fraudulently obtain compensation.

Cifas, a not-for-profit organisation which protects public, private and voluntary sectors from fraud, says identity fraud dominates the National Fraud Database (NFD) making up 64 per cent of all cases. Concerningly, their records also show most victims of impersonation are now over 61 years old.

Cifas believes that the cost-of-living crisis has resulted in this age group being more susceptible to social engineering tactics and enticing offers to ‘sell’ their identity. They have also seen more younger age groups sharing sensitive information on social media and messaging apps.

Stephen Dalton, Director of Intelligence at Cifas, said: “Identity fraud continues to be a favoured tactic for many criminals when exploiting innocent people to steal their identities and use personal details to fraudulently open and abuse financial products and services.

“It's therefore vital that individuals protect their information by never divulging financial details or credentials that could be used against them. We support IFB's campaign to bring this important issue to the public's attention and remain committed to working with our insurance members to keep the public safe from fraud and financial crime.”

Fraudsters can attempt to impersonate someone with just a few stolen details (such as a name, date of birth or home address) and this can be used for most frauds, including insurance, banking and credit fraud. Victims may be pursued by third parties looking to recover costs of financial arrangements made in their name, which can impact their credit score making it difficult to get loans, credit cards or even mortgages for years to come.

Simple measures can help to protect personal information:

• Create strong unique passwords for personal accounts.

• Avoid publicly sharing personal details on social media.

• Only make purchases through legitimate retailers’ websites and be wary of any person or organisation asking to use your bank details.

• Protect personal devices by installing the latest software and app updates, and where possible opt to use two-factor authentication.

• Avoid phishing attempts which encourage you to click on links and open files.

If anyone thinks their identity has been compromised for an insurance scam, this can be reported to the IFB’s confidential CheatLine online or via its phoneline (powered by CrimeStoppers) on 0800 422 0421.

Cifas’ victim of impersonation advice has guidance to help people targeted by identity theft.

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