Plastic remains fantastic for fraudsters

Cifas are the leaders in fraud prevention, enabling organisations in every sector to prevent fraud and protect the public – by sharing data, spreading knowledge and pushing the capabilities of technology. OS has been supporting Cifas for over six years now, by helping to communicate how fraud affects us all through a series of reports and by demonstrating how OS’s mapping and addressing data can help organisations in the fight against fraud.

In 2014, 41% of all fraud (almost 114,000 cases) recorded by organisations through Cifas’ National Fraud Database were identity frauds. These are frauds where a fraudster has used the identity details of an individual to obtain a product or service in their name. These frauds targeted a wide variety of products: from bank accounts to mobile phone contracts, loans to insurance.


Credit and store card accounts, however, were by far the identity fraudsters’ favoured product in 2014: with over 49,000 confirmed cases in 2014 – up almost 18% from the previous year’s levels.

Over three quarters of the Identity Fraud cases to obtain a plastic card involved the use of the victim’s genuine current address – up from just under three quarters of cases in 2013. Of particular concern is the fact that there is a particularly high level of use of genuine addresses when it comes to such frauds.

This is notable because it means the fraudster has to intercept the mail of their victim in some way in order to get their hands on the card and stop it from reaching their victim. While other products can be delivered electronically without necessarily needing mail interception, with plastic cards we can say that (in 2014) 37,500 frauds occurred that will have involved mail tampering – 6,500 more than the previous year. That means that the victim’s identity was stolen, used to order a credit card and then the credit card was intercepted either at the victim’s own address or along the way.

For organisations and individuals, alike, therefore – consideration has to be paid to the type of property that an individual lives in. Does the property increase the likelihood of being targeted by a fraudster intent on getting their hands on a new card account in someone else’s name?

Research has shown that, overall, the type of building you live in has no bearing on the chances of you being impersonated – unless the identity fraudster wants credit cards. In those instances, living in flats increases your chances of being impersonated. Flats often have less secure mail facilities, giving fraudsters a greater chance of intercepting the mail before the victim sees it. If you live in flats with communal mail areas and you want to reduce your fraud risk, you may wish to consider:

  • Does each flat have a separate mail box?
  • Are these boxes lockable?
  • Does the shape of the box prevent someone putting their hand through the slot and just pulling the mail out?

Stemming the tide of such  identity frauds requires consumers to think about how their circumstances might put them at an increased risk, but also challenges organisations to find new ways to ensure that they identify such dangers and find ways – such as the use of geographic data – to help mitigate against them.

Find out more about how mapping and addressing data can help reduce fraud.

Internal-Rich1 (4)Richard Hurley is Communications Manager with Cifas – the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service. He has been with the organisation since 2008 and is responsible for their communications and PR – dealing with media, raising fraud related issues to public bodies and also driving public education and awareness raising campaigns.

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