Victims of ID theft 'clueless until next year'

Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails and callers, shred all your personal documents and carry out regular credit checks on yourself.

Such is the advice from Experian, the data specialist, which yesterday recommended the three steps to all Brits unless they wish to spend 300 hours recovering from identity theft.

That’s how long it takes, on average, for a Briton to set their records straight after finding out their identity has been stolen – a crime that takes an average 450 days to discover.

Londoners are four times more likely than anyone else in the UK to become victims, with the wealthy, successful homeowners and those living in rented accommodation the easiest targets.

Others most at risk from losing a part or all of their identity include high-flying graduates, young couples with reasonable outgoings and high income earners living in premium rate properties.

The analysis, which is based on the experience of 4,000 victims of the crime, reveals that your current and previous addresses are the likeliest details to be abused.

The victims split evenly between males and females, suggesting both face equal risks, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, Britons failed to report the crime to the police.

Of the 18% that did, almost one third didn’t have their case pursued, with just seven per cent ending in a criminal prosecution.

Contrary to popular belief the majority of victims, aged between 30 and 50, didn’t incur any direct financial loss as a result of fraud being perpetrated in their name.

However there is a significant cost to the companies involved, further to the “cost to victims in terms of distress and time spent reclaiming their identity,” Experian said.

The company’s director of consumer affairs, Jill Stevens reflected: “The information willingly given to us by those people we have helped through our free Victims of Fraud service has enabled us paint a startling picture of identity fraud today.

“It takes an average of 450 days to discover you’ve been the target of identity fraud and you can then face up to 300 hours putting the record straight, so it makes sense to take every precaution.

“If you do become a victim, you can remove a lot of the hassle by contacting our Victims of Fraud team. They will give you expert advice and help you mend the damage caused by fraudsters.”

Preventative advice includes taking extra care with all personal information, particularly if you fall victim to a house burglary or mugging. .

Never divulge your sensitive information to unsolicited e-mailers or callers, and ensure this information is not carelessly thrown away, such as into a household rubbish bin.

Paper shredders are essential for people who wish to safeguard their personal details, and monitoring your financial credit status was also recommended.

 

20th October 2006

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