By Mark Fairlie

Cases of identity fraud reached an all-time high last year, with almost 175,000 cases recorded in the UK alone. Whilst this figure stands only 1% higher than in 2016, ID fraud has seen a 125% increase in the last ten years.

The country’s leading fraud prevention service, Cifas, released the latest figures in their 2018 Fraudscape report; showing worrying new trends in the world of financial crime.

Fraudulent activity dropped, but ID theft on the rise

Last year, more than 300 organisations and well-known brands across the UK contributed to Cifas’ National Fraud Database – identifying more than 305,500 cases of fraudulent conduct.

Whilst overall levels of fraudulent activity were found to have decreased by 6% on 2016, ID fraud has become an increasingly popular method for these criminals.

Identity fraud involves a fraudster using someone’s personal data to impersonate an innocent party, in order to then open up new accounts or make purchases in their name. 95% of these cases involved the impersonation of an innocent victim.

Change in fraudster behaviour

Where in the past identity fraud was most prevalent among credit cards and bank accounts, last year saw a significant “retargeting” by fraudsters towards telecoms, online shopping, and insurance.

Mike Haley, deputy chief executive at Cifas, has said,

“It is clear from this year’s Fraudscape that fraud in the UK continues to evolve, and as some targets become harder to crack, criminals turn to what they consider are softer targets.”

According to the study, this shift can be put down to criminals exploiting more accessible products. From mobile phone contracts and online retail accounts to short-term loan applications, these methods allow fraudsters to access finance without being subject to the same strict checks associated with banks and credit card providers.

“Fortunately, many of these sectors such as telecoms and insurance, share their fraud data and are detecting more fraud attempts,” says Haley. “As fraudsters see their attempts to obtain these products become more difficult, the question will arise about where they will target next.”

Purchasing identities online

According to research published earlier this year, fraudsters on the dark web are able to buy a person’s entire identity for just £820.

The study was conducted by virtual private network comparison site Top10VPN.com, in which they reviewed tens of thousands of listings on the three most popular dark web markets. For less than £1000, cybercriminals are able to purchase “fullz” – a collection of all of the logins, accounts and passwords you use online – in order to commit identity fraud.

Certain types of information are worth a great deal of money to criminals online; with online bank details costing roughly £168 to dark web bidders, and PayPal logins fetching a price of around £280.

The recent shift in identity fraudster behaviour can be put down to the considerable price drop for other kinds of personal information from hacked web accounts. According to TOP10VPN.com, criminals are able to access everything from Facebook and Match.com profiles to food delivery sites to find home addresses for less than £5.

Simon Migliano, head of research at Top10VPN.com, said the company’s

“research is a stark reminder of just how easy it is to get hold of personal info on the dark web and the sheer variety of routes that fraudsters can take to get hold of your money.”

Recent crime figures from the Office of National Statistics’ showed that nearly 3.4 million frauds took place in the year ending March 2017 – making it the single largest crime in the UK.

In response to this, in October 2017, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming was launched. As identity fraud in the UK continues to grow, they aim to challenge responses from law enforcement, government and industries to work to prevent it.