If you've ever been the victim of identity theft, you'll know how traumatising it can be. Having financial products taken out in your name can not only leave you with a black mark on your credit report, but it could even leave you in debt, so it's vital to be on your guard to protect yourself from fraudsters. This is even more important for those living in London, as research has revealed that it's the identity theft capital of the UK.
Research from Experian has found that London has significantly higher rates of identify theft than anywhere else in the UK. The figures are based on the number of fraudulent applications made across various financial products, including current accounts, loans, mortgages, savings accounts, insurance products and credit cards, and they found that both inner and outer London are by far the most targeted areas in the country.
Outer London is squarely at the top of the regional list with 34 cases of identity fraud reported for every 10,000 adults, but Central London follows close behind with 33 cases of fraud for every 10,000. This is in sharp contrast to the region that has the next highest rate of identity theft: Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, had a mere 12 reported cases of fraud per 10,000 adults, and by the end of the top 20 (Bracknell), the figure falls to just three in 10,000.
Unfortunately, it looks like identity theft is something many people are going to have to deal with, as it has become the most prevalent form of fraud for the first time since the recession. The figures show that, by the end of 2014, the rate of third-party fraud accounted for 52% of all detected fraud cases (happily, 'detected' means prevented!). The prevalence rose steadily during the final few months of the year, and was led by a 20% increase in current account fraud.
Nick Mothershaw, UK&I director of Identity & Fraud at Experian, comments: "The diverse cross-section of demographics in London means that many areas are a prime target. The affluent suburbs are attractive targets for high-level frauds, while high-density blocks of flats with communal mail boxes can offer identity thieves an easy way in to gain people's information.
"The good news is that more and more of these frauds are being spotted as the financial services sector continues to innovate in the fight against fraud. However, with fraudsters' methods becoming increasingly more sophisticated, tackling this type of crime needs to remain a priority for all providers.
"People must also ensure that they take their own measures to safeguard themselves. They can be extra vigilant when using financial products online, and should make sure they're on the electoral register so their identity can be verified quickly. They can also take simple steps, such as asking their landlord for a secure letterbox if they live in large blocks of flats."
You don't need to live in fear of fraudsters, as by taking positive, proactive steps to minimise your chance of being targeted, you can keep the fraudsters at bay. Read our guide on how to protect yourself from online fraudsters, and remember to check your credit report on a regular basis so you can spot any anomalies – by staying on the lookout, you can be more confident that no-one will slip through unnoticed.
Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.
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