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New figures reveal identity fraud falls for the first time since 2014

15 August 2018
  • Figures show a 5% drop in the first six months of 2018 compared to the previous year
  • Identity fraudsters applying for plastic card accounts increase by 12%
  • Fraudulent attempts to obtain mobile phone contracts fall by 34%

Today, Wednesday 15 August 2018, Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released new figures showing that identity fraud has fallen for the first time since 2014. Cifas members recorded 84,463 cases in the first six months of the year, a 5% drop compared to the same period in 2017 (89,199). Despite the reduction, identity fraud still represents over half of all fraud recorded by the UK’s not-for-profit fraud data sharing organisation, with 87% of identity frauds perpetrated online.

The latest figures show there has been a reduction in the volume of bank accounts being targeted by identity fraudsters, with cases falling by 12% (2,882 fewer cases), and a 34% reduction in attempts to obtain mobile phone contracts (3,096 fewer cases). However the figures reveal a sharp rise in identity fraudsters applying for plastic card accounts, with cases increasing by 12% (3,454 more cases). The figures also show identity fraud against online retail accounts has risen by 24% (1,232 more cases).

The vast majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be an innocent individual to buy a product or open an account in their name. Victims may not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating. To carry out this kind of fraud successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank and who they hold accounts with. Fraudsters get hold of this in a variety of ways, from stealing mail through to hacking; obtaining data on the dark and surface web, exploiting personal information on social media, or though ‘social engineering’ where innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a trusted retailer.

Sandra Peaston, Director of Strategy, Policy and Insight, Cifas, said:
“Identity fraud cases reached record levels in 2017, therefore it is positive that we have seen an overall reduction in the first six months of the year. However, these new figures demonstrate that identity fraudsters adapt quickly to try and circumvent security measures. The re-targeting of plastic cards, following a drop in 2017, is a prime example of this.

With identity fraud remaining uncomfortably high, more personal information available online, and increasing numbers of data breaches, the protection of personal data must be viewed as a collective responsibility. Everyone should play their part, from individuals and organisations taking steps to protect personal data to businesses ensuring their fraud prevention practices effectively defend against evolving tactics employed by identity fraudsters.”

Pauline Smith, head of the City of London Police’s Action Fraud said:
“This overall reduction in identity fraud is an encouraging step in the right direction for the fight against fraud. However, we would urge people to remain cautious when sharing their personal details.

Fraudsters prey on vulnerability. The sharp rise in fraudulent applications for plastic card accounts means that it’s as vital as ever for people to continue protecting their personal details. You should check your banking statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned.

If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud.”


Notes to editors

For more information please contact:

Sarah Samee
T: +44 (0)20 3004 3609

Table 1 – year breakdown of UK total identity fraud figures (first six month comparison)


Table 2 – Identity fraud cases by product

Jan-June 2017
Jan-June 2018
% change
Plastic cards
Bank accounts
Online retail

*Table 3 – Age breakdown of victims of impersonation

Jan-June 2017
Jan-June 2018
% change
Under 21
Over 60

*Please note not all victims of impersonation are recorded with a date of birth, so not all cases can be attributed to an age breakdown. Additionally, where the fraud involves the use of an entirely fictitious identity, no victim details are recorded. If you are looking for a total figure, please use the figure in the press release (84,463). We compile our data from identity fraud cases that have been recorded on our National Fraud Database by more than 400 organisations.

What can consumers do to protect themselves?

  • Set your privacy settings across all the social media channels you use.And just think twice before you share details – in particular your full date of birth, your address, contacts details – all this information can be useful to fraudsters!
  • Deactivate and delete old profiles on social media sites that you no longer use. Keep track of your digital footprints. If a profile was created ten years ago, there may be personal information currently available for a fraudster to use that you’re are not aware of or you have forgotten about.
  • Password protect your devices. Keep your passwords complex by picking three random words, such as roverducklemon and add or split them with symbols, numbers and capitals:R0v3rDuckLemon!
  • Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date. MoneySavingExpert have a recommended list of the best free anti-virus software.
  • Take care on public Wi-Fi – fraudsters hack them or mimic them. If you’re using one, avoid accessing sensitive apps such as mobile banking. 

  • Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features. 

  • Think about your offline information too, like post. Always redirect your mail when you leave home and try to make sure your mailbox is secure. 

What to do if you're a victim:

ACT FAST if you think you have been a victim of identity fraud

  • If you receive any mail that seems suspicious or implies you have an account with the sender when you don’t, do not ignore it.

  • Get a copy of your credit report as it is one of the first places you can spot if someone is misusing your personal information – before you suffer financial loss. Review every entry on your credit report and if you see an account or even a credit search from a company that you do not recognise, notify the credit reference agency.

  • Individuals or businesses who have fallen victim to identity fraud should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at

  • If you have information about those committing identity crime please tell independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or at

  • If you have been a victim of fraud, you can contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice and support. Victim Support is the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales. Find out more at

About Cifas

Cifas (pronounced ci like eye, fas like mass) exists to prevent fraud and financial crime. We are an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation that protects businesses and individuals through effective and secure data and intelligence sharing between the private, public and third sectors. In 2017, Cifas member organisations prevented over £1 billion of fraud losses.

Cifas data is included in the Office of National Statistics England and Wales Crime Statistics of police recorded crime. Every day, we send approximately 800 fraud cases to the City of London Police for potential investigation. Cifas also offers Protective Registration for individuals whose identities are at risk of being used fraudulently, for instance after a burglary. We also run a scheme called Protecting the Vulnerable, offered free of charge to local authorities to protect those under the care of Court Deputies who are unable to access financial products and whose identities may be at risk.


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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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