BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Business  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
E-Commerce
Economy
Market Data
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Monday, 18 June, 2001, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Identity theft: stealing your name
A range of credit cards available in the UK
Credit cards: fraudsters can easily open accounts

By John Penycate
BBC TV's Money Programme

Identity theft is Britain's fastest-growing white-collar crime, increasing at nearly 500% a year.

It's a terrible feeling. It's a feeling just like your house has been burgled

John Seater
Car dealer
At that rate, says the banks' fraud avoidance bureau "this type of fraud will become the most serious, with significant financial losses".

Most victims of identity theft are reimbursed by banks for money stolen from them, but they suffer nonetheless.

John Seater, a car-dealer from Cornwall, told the Money Programme: "It's a terrible feeling. It's a feeling just like your house has been burgled."

How identities are stolen?

The simplest way is to be robbed of your credit-cards.

A thief can spend freely with them until they are reported lost.

After that he can use them as identification to acquire store-cards.

Fraudsters bribe burglars and postmen for bank statements, which contain enough data to open new accounts and take out fraudulent loans in your name

This is because at present shops issuing store-cards are denied access to the banks' hot card file of stolen card numbers.

Identity theft can also go on for months or years without the victim's knowledge.

Fraudsters bribe burglars and postmen for bank statements, which contain enough data to open new accounts and take out fraudulent loans in your name.

Or they can simply retrieve discarded credit-card slips from dustbins.

Anyone can send off for your birth certificate and driving-licence.

Include public records like the Land Registry, Companies House and the Electoral Roll and there's not a lot about you that can't be discovered

With a birth certificate, the fraudster knows your mother's maiden name, and can acquire a passport in your name.

Include public records like the Land Registry, Companies House and the Electoral Roll and there's not a lot about you that can't be discovered.

Identity thieves can get your mail redirected, or apply for credit-cards using your name and your real address as the former address on the application.

Mobile phone accounts, loans, overdrafts - all can happen in your name.

And often "you" decide to withdraw wads of cash from your bank account, presenting just enough ID information to convince busy counter staff.

A worldwide crime

In America there have been hundreds of thousands of identity thefts.

California keeps a register of ID theft victims, and Los Angeles has a detective squad dedicated to the crime.

One victim was a young lawyer. On her first day at San Diego's District Attorney's office, she was arrested, handcuffed and marched off to jail for crimes her identity thief had committed.

Multiple credit card account can be opened in your name
Thousands can be spent before you even realise
In the UK, there are still only thousands of cases each year, but the numbers are increasing dramatically.

The Money Programme has investigated a handful of typical cases.

A Londoner had false credit accounts opened in his name at Oxford Street stores, and thousands of pounds spent before he found out about them.

Or how about the businessman who had his impeccable credit record damaged by an impersonator who had changed the electoral register.

In the West Country, an accomplished fraudster systematically emptied the bank accounts of numerous small companies, using impersonation and stolen financial details.

That fraudster, Glenn Davies, now in jail, told the Money Programme about his role in a nationwide ring of identity thieves, which utilises private financial information supplied by corrupt bank staff.

How to protect yourself

Be careful whom you give private financial information to, and tear up documents like credit-card slips before discarding them.

If you think you may be a victim then send off for your credit-reference files from Experian and Equifax - it only costs 2.

They will show any fraudulent applications for credit. Inform CIFAS, the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System, which will put your name on an alert file.

But there is no escaping the fact that right now fraudsters are finding this crime all too easy.

And that, even if your losses are made good, you can suffer huge disruption, embarrassment and fear, when somebody filches your good name.

The Money Programme investigation into Identity Theft was broadcast on BBC 2 and on BBC News Online at 1930 BST (1830 GMT) on Monday.

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes