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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Identity thieves 'move upmarket'
A credit card being swiped
Spending money in restaurants can expose you to identity theft
Identity fraudsters are increasingly targeting wealthy people, credit rating agency Experian has warned.

Of 2,124 people who used its helpline in 2006, company directors and business people were the most common victims.

Nearly half of all victims had not realised their identities had been misused until contacted by a financial services firm.

However, the losses are still suffered mainly by mail order companies and issuers of credit and store cards.

With organised criminals, rather than opportunist thieves, increasingly stealing identities to carry out crimes, many of the victims are finding that their current addresses are being used rather than a previous one.

"Those individuals most likely to fall victim will use restaurants more often, spend more time in hotels and rent more cars," said Jill Stevens of Experian.

"These organisations hold a huge amount of personal data, but may not necessarily have the levels of security that a large retail bank would have."

Opportunism

Most identity fraud appears to take place in and around London with its concentration of wealthy people and upmarket addresses.

But Experian warned that people living in rented flats were still very vulnerable, with criminals able to steal their mail more easily or pass themselves off as former tenants.

"The opportunistic identity fraudster remains a very real threat to consumers," said Jill Stevens.

As a result, cases of fraudsters redirects someone's post to another address still accounts for 22% of the fraud brought to Experian's attention.

However, identity theft following the theft or loss of personal goods - for instance during a burglary - now accounts for just 2% of cases.


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