Understanding the risks of identity theft and fraud

22nd Dec 2020

Identity Theft describes the usage of your personal details so that a criminal can pretend to be you. Once they assume your identity – increasingly in digital scenarios rather than face-to-face – an Identity Fraud follows to obtain money, goods or services in your name. The fraudsters are also adept at creating fictious identities, or assuming those of people who have died.

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These activities are on the rise and IPS members need to know the dangers to make some behavioural changes that reduce the risk of becoming a victim.


The National Fraud Database  reported over 364,000 identity fraud cases in 2019, a 13% rise on 2018. That is almost 1,000 reported cases a day in our country.


The holy grail for a fraudster is to be able to use details found in your passport or driving licence (name, date of birth, address, photograph) in conjunction with bank and mobile device details and your usernames and passwords to access your online accounts.

Once your identity has been compromised fraudsters can use your identity details to:

  • Open new bank accounts
  • Take over your existing bank accounts
  • Obtain credit cards, loans, and state benefits (like universal credit and even Covid-19 related furlough payments)
  • Order goods and services in your name
  • Take out a mobile phone contract
  • Obtain new copies of genuine documents such as driving licences or passports
  • Sell those details to the highest bidder (including the fraudsters running Cold Call and email phishing scams)

Victims often don’t find out until long after their identity has been stolen. It’s common for the first indication to be a credit card statement featuring things you didn’t buy. From there it’s downhill, with bailiffs and debt collectors seeking money they think you owe them, or being turned down for a mortgage due to a flag on your credit score caused by a failed application you didn’t make.

Achieving the holy grail can be triggered by the capture of a first piece of private identity. One piece of private data can help them pick up even more information which leads towards their complete data copy of you.

There are several routes to set this in motion:

    • Going through post or rubbish to find bank and credit card-related paperwork/statements.
    • Theft of a purse or wallet (to access driving license, bank and credit cards).
    • Contactless payment cards and information can be stolen whilst a person is shopping. They ‘skim’ the chip in the card using radio frequency capture and can use to information to clone the card.
    • See how easy card cloning is by watching the video on this  website.
    • Online data capture of private information can happen if using unsecured web sites or a hacked public wi-fi without using VPN software.
    • Phishing email scams  can harvest valuable data.
    • The fraudsters who capture data through phishing sometimes sell on the email address or password to other criminals who buy such details in the dark corners of the web.

According to a price list found on the dark web, PayPal logins are worth around £300 to an identity fraudster. The next hot ticket item are banking details, valued at £161.  Click here for more information.

IPS tips on how to guard against identity theft and fraud

  • Don’t throw out any documents containing your name and/or address without shredding them first.
  • If a credit card or bank statement is expected through the post and it does not arrive, you should notify your bank or credit card company.
  • If you move home, ensure you organise a redirection of your post with the Royal Mail, ideally for 12 months. This is an important one to prevent your post falling into the wrong hands.
  • If you receive any unsolicited emails or phone calls claiming to be from your bank/building society, NEVER reveal your password, log in or account details. NEVER reveal your PIN to any company.
  • Create  strong passwords  for online use and don’t use the same password for different sites and services.
  • Protect your home wi-fi router with a password that you choose – rather than the default password that comes with it. If it’s compromised criminals can access every device that connects to it.
  • Use a VPN such as NordVPN* to encrypt your data and protect it from prying eyes when using wi-fi.
  • NEVER use public wi-fi networks to deal with any financially sensitive matters. If you need to use your mobile just use your data allowance as 3G and 4G is more secure.
  • Don’t post any pictures of your location e.g. house name/number nor your vehicle number plate on social media.
  • Create separate personal and work profiles on social media.
  • Be careful what you reveal on social media about your children.

What to do if you believe you have been a victim of Identity Theft and Fraud

  • Act quickly and don’t be embarrassed to speak up.
  • If it involves bank/credit cards, online banking or even cheque transactions, you MUST notify your bank or credit card company immediately.
  • If you believe you’ve been a victim of another kind of identity fraud, please contact the relevant organisations yourself. They may direct you to the police using the non-emergency 101 number.
  • Report any lost or stolen documents such as your driving licence or passport, to the relevant issuing authorities.
  • Always keep a detailed record of your activities, responses and retain all written communication as you go through this arduous process.
  • You should obtain a copy of your credit report. This enables you to see if lenders have been carrying out any recent credit searches. Examine it closely as you also may find entries from companies and services you don’t normally deal with and again contact those companies immediately.
  • Any bad debts incurred will be in your name and at your address.  As a result, you will then have the sole responsibility of repaying those debts and defaults in your credit rating for the future. It can be a long hard road so please take steps to minimise the risk of it happening to you
  • Visit  Action Fraud  to report a fraud if you still have concerns

IPS Summary

Identity theft and identity fraud are one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK, particularly in the current climate and as consumers we are ALL at risk.  Things will change in the years ahead as biometric technology like iris, facial and fingerprint identity make it harder for criminals, but for now this is a genuine area of concern.


We know that being a victim of theft and fraud causes great distress, anxiety and insecurity.  It is reassuring to know that you are not alone in this and there are support groups which can help and guide you.  Let’s help each other and share advice on this story with other IPS members

*IPS make a small commission per transaction, at no extra cost to members, and want you to be aware of that. The choice to find out more remains entirely at your discretion.

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