Page last updated at 06:51 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 07:51 UK

Fraudsters 'target bank accounts'

Bank cards and a padlock
Banks recommend "simple steps" to prevent identity theft

The credit crunch is causing identity fraudsters to target bank account holders, a report says.

The all-party parliamentary group on identity fraud says thieves are finding it more difficult to use fake identities to open new accounts because of restrictions on credit.

The group warned that fraudsters are now targeting existing accounts.

Its chairman Nigel Evans MP said people were "not being smart enough" to protect themselves.

The Home Office said it was "committed" to tackling the harm of identity fraud.

Since the group's last report, a year ago, it says there has been a fall in traditional forms of identity theft, including "application" fraud, in which people use stolen or false documents to open an account.

But the report says there's been a "vast" increase in cyber crime, where fraudsters use the internet and e-mail to tap into existing accounts or to find out credit card details.

Ensuring people opening accounts are who they say they are is an important step in tackling crime and makes the whole system safer for everyone
British Bankers' Association

One scam involves a bogus e-mail from Revenue and Customs, asking for bank account details to receive a tax rebate.

Mr Evans, a Conservative MP, said criminals were being forced by the credit crunch to "focus on individual accounts which offer a guaranteed financial resource", as financial institutions began to take a "firmer line" on offering credit.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "Certainly the fraudsters are investing in their technology to clone the information so the fraudsters are being smart, we're not sufficiently being smart enough.

"And in this time, of course, when the credit crunch is there, whilst other people are losing their jobs, the fraudsters will be sure not to lose theirs."

The British Bankers' Association (BBA) said there were "simple steps" customers could take to prevent identity theft.

These include keeping cards and Pin numbers secure, being up to date with their internet security, securely disposing of statements and letters and reporting any suspicious activity on their accounts.

Fraud cost

A spokeswoman for the BBA said: "Ensuring people opening accounts are who they say they are is an important step in tackling crime and makes the whole system safer for everyone."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The government is committed to tackling the harm caused by identity fraud, which causes distress and harm to individuals and their families when identities are stolen by criminals to facilitate fraud."

The Home Office estimates that ID fraud cost the UK economy 1.7bn in 2006.

The parliamentary group's report also warns that the 2012 Olympics will present a "golden" opportunity for identity fraud, and urges the government to give the information commissioner powers to act as an identity fraud tsar.

But the Metropolitan Police's Olympic Security Directorate said there were "many proactive fraud prevention measures are already in place" for London 2012, and that these would continue up to and during the Games.

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