Identity Theft Awareness Week
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
It is a sad indictment that the World even needs an Identity Theft Awareness Week, but sadly it does, and its slot in the calendar is a week in February every year.
Even more depressing is that since last year reports of identity fraud have surged. This is unsurprising since history shows that in times of economic stress levels of fraud always rise and due to the pandemic unemployment and redundancies are at their highest rates in over a decade.
There are a number of forms of fraud that are experiencing an uplift. The first is unemployment benefit fraud, whereby individuals are claiming unemployment benefit despite still working or failing to report a change in circumstance such as moving in with someone. This type of fraud costs the DWP over £1.2 billion per year and is popular because fraudsters are unlikely to be investigated unless they are reported by a third party.
Business support fraud is also becoming more prevalent with fraudsters stealing the identities of directors from Companies House and using the information to apply for government support loans and grants introduced by The Chancellor to help organisations during the Pandemic. This type of fraud is also difficult to detect since the first time that a director might know that this has occurred is if they then try to apply (legitimately) for a loan or grant.
And finally, incidences of deceased identity fraud are also increasing. Sadly, the death rate in the UK has risen sharply since March 2019 and as a result fraudsters have a growing pool of victims. Deceased identity fraud also tends to go undetected for long periods since those being defrauded are deceased and therefore cannot check their credit ratings or identify strange activity in their accounts. Deceased identity fraudsters steal the personal information of people that have passed away and use it to open up new accounts in their name often running up thousands of pounds in credit, loans and orders.
Finally, phishing is also on the rise. This is where fraudsters attempt to steal personal information such as bank account details or personal information. Common scams include emails claiming that a bank account has been fraudulently accessed, or a phone calls purporting to be from HMRC announcing that the recipient is going to be investigated for tax evasion and lastly, one of the most contemptible, information being sent out fraudulently under the guise of NHS about vaccinations.
It is already a difficult time for everyone, however, with fraud on the rise it is really important that businesses and consumers stay aware and try and protect themselves as much as possible