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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
'Ignorance' over identity theft
identity fraud
Identity fraud has risen sharply in the UK
Britons are worried about identity theft, yet few know how to deal with the crime, according to new research.

A survey by CPP Group found that while 90% of Britons were worried about the crime, they didn't know what to do if their identity was stolen.

Identity fraud is the theft of personal information which may be used to obtain loans, credit cards or benefits.

One in 10 would contact the BBC programme Watchdog or seek help from their local MP, the survey found.

"It's [identity fraud] rising dramatically and people are frightened by it," said Stephen Chinn from CPP Group.

Problem skyrocketing

"It can be a huge problem for people, particularly if your credit rating is affected," he said.

According to figures from CIFAS, an industry body, identity fraud has risen by 400% in UK the last five years.

Other industry figures suggest there was a 45% rise in identity fraud in the last year alone, with criminals going through dustbins, getting hold of junk mail and hacking into computers to steal information.

It can be a huge problem for people, particularly if your credit rating is affected
Stephen Chinn

The CPP group, a consumer assistance product company, interviewed 4,000 adults and found people cited a wide range of sources they would turn to for help, suggesting general confusion with the problem.

The majority would report the crime to the police (88%), their bank (84%) and credit card company (74%).

One in three people (34%) said that they would talk to a credit reference agency to restore their credit status.

Mr Chinn advises people to be careful about how they hand out personal information and use a shredder to destroy documents.

"There has to be an education process that we go through and people need to be aware. Businesses and the community needs to address this problem more seriously."

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