Is it time identity fraud became a recordable crime?
Wednesday, July 08, 2020
As we are all probably aware the number of incidences of identity fraud have rocketed since lockdown began. At the last tally a total of £5,341,592 has been reported lost by 2,204 victims of coronavirus-related scams across the UK since 23 March, according to Action Fraud, the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. Fraudsters are using the pandemic as a way to scam people’s personal data out of them and use this for their own personal gain. Some of the emerging phishing crimes include alleged communication from supermarkets regarding the delivery status of an online order, emails and texts purporting to be from the NHS with important information for vulnerable citizens and phone calls and emails from HMRC offering rebates in a bid to help tax payers through lockdown.
One such victim is Millie Clark. In May she received an email from her mobile phone provider asking her to update her payment details online due to new lockdown rules. Clicking on the provided link she logged into ‘her’ account and did as she was asked. Two weeks later she received a phone call from her bank’s anti-fraud team telling her that she had been a victim of fraud. Little did she know, however, that the person at the end of the phone claiming to be her bank was the very same person that sent the very convincing email from the mobile phone provider a few weeks previously. Over the phone she revealed more information about herself enabling the fraudster to take out a £10,000 loan and steal £12,000 from her business account. The first she knew of it was when she received a real call from the bank’s anti-fraud team a few days later. As this incident shows fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated with multi-level scams. They are also indiscriminate in their selection of victims – anyone is vulnerable – including people that have passed away. Due to the increase in the nation’s mortality rate as a result of coronavirus, deceased identity fraud, which occurs when a fraudster steals the identity of someone that has passed away, is tragically also becoming more of concern.
With an alarming growth rate of both identity fraud and deceased identity fraud is it time that identity theft became classed as a police recordable crime? Millie was able to report her experience to Action Fraud, but under Home Office guidelines the issue could only be logged, not recorded.
The rules around what is and isn’t recordable are quite complicated, and have changed over the years. But what it ultimately means is that the police are not able to take or retain DNA or fingerprints of potential fraudsters if they are arrested and any conviction that results will not be recorded, providing a clear path for fraudsters to potentially reoffend.
Last year businesses lost close to £200 billion to identity fraud, in such a fragile economy this is something we can ill afford. Perhaps now is the time to consider changing ID theft into a recordable crime.