Owners of high-value properties and trendy urban flats are falling victim to a surge in identity theft and current account fraud in the UK, according to credit checking agency Experian.
People living in the centre of cities with high-status jobs are seeing the biggest increase in identity theft connected to fraud on mortgage applications. This type of victim now accounts for 10 per cent of all identity theft cases for mortgage fraud, compared with 7 per cent last year.
In many cases, fraudsters steal personal details by snatching mail or intercepting emails between borrowers and solicitors, and then manage to divert large payments.
Nick Mothershaw, fraud expert from Experian, said: “Unfortunately fraudsters are very canny, and they either go for the easiest targets or the biggest potential ‘wins’. If they can find a way through the fraud defences, or manage to coerce professionals involved in the mortgage process, the pickings are rich.”
Current accounts are increasingly being targeted, with the number of fraudulent applications more than doubling in the past two years. Fraudsters use people’s personal details to set up a current account as “a front door” to access a wide range of other bank products.
Mr Mothershaw said that fraudsters are focusing on trendy new-build flats as a way to gain easier access to mail, for personal information or for obtaining the debit or credit card once its posted to the address. “A fraudster will see someone moving into a new property, and will make sure they have access to it,” he said.
Experian’s data, which highlight detected and prevented frauds, showed there were 128 fraudulent current account applications in every 10,000 in the second quarter, up from 58 two years ago.
Credit card fraud also rocketed. Some 48 applications in every 10,000 were fraudulent, marking the second highest level in the 12 quarters since the analysis began.
Mr Mothershaw said: “Current account and card fraud have increased in step over the past two years as the two are very much linked.
“Current accounts are a front door for fraudsters looking to access a wide range of other financial products, and clearly, fraudsters are going for the credit cards for quick access to funds.”
The latest figures serve as a warning to banks about where criminals are targeting their efforts.
Last week, consumer group Which? issued a “super-complaint” to the UK’s payments watchdog, warning that banks must do more to protect customers from transferring money to scam artists.
Which? said banks had to take responsibility if customers sent money through a bank transfer to schemes that turned out to be fraudulent.
Banks spend billions of pounds a year in attempt to fight against fraudsters and financial crime.
Financial Fraud Action, a bank industry body, said: “Banks take fraud extremely seriously and use advanced security systems which last year stopped £8 in £10 of attempted remote banking fraud.
“Banks are legally obligated to fulfil a customer’s request to transfer money even if they have warned the customer they are at risk of a potential scam. All banks will always work to recover stolen money, and last year recovered 40 per cent of funds taken through remote banking.”