Identity fraud surges as criminals capitalise on recovering economy

Fraud prevention service Cifas is warning of a surge in identity fraud as cases filed to the National Fraud Database increased by 11% in the first six months of 2021, in a pattern similar to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Cifas’ new Fraudscape report found that the total number of cases recorded to the National Fraud Database reduced in 2020 compared the record year of 2019, linked to the fall in economic activity caused by the pandemic. However, a comparison of the first six months of 2021 reveals a sharp spike in cases of fraud, with almost 180,000 instances of fraudulent conduct filed in the first six months of the year.

This pattern was repeated following the financial crisis in 2008, when organisations in the UK recorded a 32% increase in identity fraud the following year. UK businesses and consumers are warned to expect a continuation of the steep rise in identity fraud for 2021 and 2022 as criminals take advantage of the recovering economy.

Despite the dip in filings in 2020, Cifas member organisations filed a case to the National Fraud Database every two minutes on average, with three in five of these cases relating to identity fraud.

Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas, said: “Our members have seen over half a million instances of identity fraud over the last three years. The increase in the first six months of the year is extremely concerning as it indicates that the volume of identity fraud will continue to rise post-COVID as fraudsters exploit the identities of more innocent victims for criminal gain.

“Businesses need to be prepared to deal with an increase in fraudsters masquerading as genuine consumers attempting to purchase products and services using stolen information. The public should also be wary of increased attempts to trick them out of their personal and financial details.”

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