Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 13:42 UK

Credit crunch 'fuels fraud cases'

Computer user
The number of bank accounts being taken over has risen

The activities of fraudsters have changed owing to the effects of the credit crunch, says UK fraud prevention service Cifas.

The group says that more people have been lying on application forms for loans and credit cards to try to cover up a poor credit history.

It says fraud cases have leapt by 10% in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2007.

The figures come after a watchdog said more anti-fraud action was needed.

Lies and statistics

Cifas compiles its figures from 270 member organisations across the banking, credit card, mail order and telecommunications industries among others.

"Because people are getting into debt earlier, and because the credit crunch has diminished their access to finance, they are now resorting to fraudulent applications for funds," said Cifas chief executive Peter Hurst.

Districts with the most identity fraud victims
Woolwich, Plumstead
Finsbury Park, Manor House
East Ham, Beckton
Source: Cifas

Lies on application forms have risen by 13% from 19,239 in the first three months of 2007 to 21,780 in the first quarter of 2008.

The most frequent lie, according to Cifas, was failing to disclose a previous address where the applicant had a poor credit history.

Mr Hurst said such lies were counter-productive as providers shared information and were less likely to offer such a person credit.

Cases of "account takeover" have also risen. This is when a fraudster impersonates a victim in order to control their bank account.

They often break the security by using a spoof email, claiming to be from a bank, to trick the victim into giving their account details.

Cases of account takeover more than doubled from 1,331 in the first quarter of 2007 to 3,276 in the same period of 2008, Cifas figures show.

Changing tastes

Identity fraud, when con-artists use information intended for their victim, has fallen over the last year.

Fraudsters have been changing their methods of identity fraud. They are becoming more likely to intercept mail meant for the victim or go bin-diving for information, instead of falsely claiming that the victim has changed their address.

Last week, the Financial Service Authority said financial services companies need to do more to stem the rise in identity fraud.

It said that medium-sized and small firms were the worst offenders at underestimating the risk of data loss and fraud to their businesses.

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