Cyber Criminals Target Ealing
Organised gangs behind explosion in identity fraud
Research by the credit company Experian has identified Ealing as one of the areas of the UK most likely to be hit by identity fraud.
Using data gathered from the people who had contacted their Victims of Fraud service, Experian have published a new report for the whole of the UK which shows where this crime is most prevalent.
London remains the identity fraud capital of the UK, with all of the top 25 most at risk areas of the UK located inside the M25. For the country as a whole Ealing is the 15th highest risk area with residents three times as likely to be hit by this kind of fraud (see table at end of article).
2,124 victims contacted Experian’s Victims of Fraud team for the first time in the second half of 2006. This represents a 69 per cent year-on-year increase in identity fraud activity reported to Experian. Highly paid young professionals renting a flat in a fashionable area are the demographic group most at risk. There has been a change in the pattern of identity fraud in recent months with more frauds using the current address of the victim rather than a previous one. The theft of identity from bins now accounts for a very small proportion of this type of crime as the criminals move onto more sophisticated methods. Experian believe that the crime is becoming industrialised with highly organised international gangs now behind it.
Anne Green, a fraud consultant said, "The dramatic increases in identity fraud we have witnessed over the last few years have coincided with its movement from being predominantly opportunistic into the realm of organised crime. While the small-time, opportunistic identity fraudster remains - and still represents a very real threat to consumers - a significant proportion of identity fraud today is controlled by no more than a few hundred sophisticated criminal gangs."
The gangs may be based in one country outside the UK and use technical expertise from another country. The actual fraud is carried out by runners or mules who have no knowledge of the details of the operation and cannot give information about the gangs if they are caught. These runners are often naive individuals who are seen as expendable by the gangs and they are described as the drug mules of the identity fraud world. Gangs are now obtaining most of their illicit data through the internet by 'phishing' techniques such as sending out bogus e-mails from financial institutions asking for account details. Often engaged as an anonymous freelance resource – recruited online via one or more, middlemen – a techie will hack into a target IT system, or develop trojans, worms to get the information needed.
Gangs deliberately operate across international borders. For example, an Italian based gangster might arrange to steal data relevant to US citizens via a techie based in Russia. He could then place postal redirects, divert telephone numbers and add secondary identities to an account, and arrange for cards to be dispatched to UK mail boxes for a UK runner to pick them up and obtain cash and high value goods anywhere in the world.
92 per cent of identity frauds are not reported to the police. Of those cases that were reported, at the time of undertaking this research, just eight per cent had resulted in a prosecution and two per cent a caution. Over half of those reported to the police (54 per cent) were still under investigation, while a further 35 per cent of cases were unlikely to be pursued. Experian believes that The Fraud Act, which came into effect in January 2007, will make it easier for the authorities to prosecute identity fraudsters.
* Percentage of population in high risk category
April 13, 2007