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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March 2004, 15:04 GMT
Taking identity fraud in hand
By Jennifer Clarke
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Thumbprint
Mr Jameson believes his thumb is the answer

Identity fraud may be the fastest rising crime in the UK, but BBC Radio 4's Money Box heard from one listener, who is confident he will never become a victim.

Last year more than 100,000 people had their identity taken and used by criminals to steal money or goods.

Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing areas of credit fraud in the UK and could account for more than 1bn of criminal profits every year.

I think I am the best protected person against identity fraud
Jamie Jameson

But one Money Box listener has come up with a novel way to protect himself by taking matters into his own hands.

Jamie Jamieson told the programme: "As far as I know I am the only person doing this in the UK, and I think I am the best protected person against identity fraud."

Once fraudsters have stolen personal details, they often make false applications for loans and credit cards. Mr Jameson thinks he has found a way to prevent these being successful.

He has contacted the UK's main credit reference agencies - Equifax, Experian and Call Credit - and asked them to put a Notice of Correction on his file.

This states that any signature he makes on a financial document will be authenticated by his thumbprint.

Liability

Any lender who accesses Mr Jamieson's credit file will be able to read the extra information. Mr Jamieson says the message to lenders if clear. If the thumbprint is not present, the application should be refused.

Fingerprint
Mr Jameson says any fraudulent print could be given to the police

"If someone has stolen my identity, basically I can hold that lender responsible. I can say 'is there a print on it?' If the answer is no, then that product should not have been granted. And if there is, I can say it is not mine."

He is protected against any liability, and he adds, any thumbprint which was present could be given to the police to help them track down the fraudster. And all for the princely sum of 6.

"The total cost of it to myself was three letters, three stamps and a little ink pad that I carry around with me permanently. I can think of nothing more effective, or as simple, or as cheap".

Application delays

Neil Munroe is a Director at Equifax, one of the three credit reference agencies which Jamie contacted. He says Jamie's scheme is fine in principle, but points out it could delay any genuine application he makes:

If he does not take out a lot of credit it would work perfectly fine
Neil Munroe, Equifax

"It is certainly one of the answers. However it is going to be a little bit time consuming if he does want to go and get credit, because the way the system would work means his application is going to get referred."

This could prevent him from taking advantage of instant credit deals. But Mr Munroe added: "If he does not take out a lot of credit it would work perfectly fine."

He said Jamie's solution would not suit everyone, and that the industry was doing a great deal to tackle the growing problem of identity fraud.

Checks in place

There are various methods in place by which lenders can check that a credit applicant is who he or she says they are, Mr Munroe told the programme.

These include cross-referencing against data already held by the agencies, including telephone numbers, employment details, and even dates of birth.

If you lose documents make sure you report them
Neil Munroe

But Mr Munroe said customers must also take responsibility for their own security.

"Be very, very careful about the information that you hold. Make sure that you look after it. Do not carry a lot of information around with you.

"If you lose documents make sure you report them. If you are throwing information away make sure it is shredded or destroyed."

Above all he said we all need to inspect our credit files regularly and correct any errors which are there:

"Check your information on a regular basis. You may feel that if you are not credit active you are not actually going to be a victim, but it is actually those sort of people who are targeted."

The websites of each of the three credit reference agencies have detailed information about how to avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud.

In addition, the UK's fraud prevention service Cifas has just launched a dedicated website to give customers more advice.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 27 March, 2004, at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 28 March, at 2102 BST.

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SEE ALSO
Fighting back on ID fraud
27 Nov 03 |  Business

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