Fraud trends and recession go hand in hand

Of particular note are:

a massive 40% increase in people being impersonated compared with the same period in 2008,

the continued rise in facility takeover frauds, and

a surge in false insurance claims.

The unwelcome reappearance of identity fraud

A 40% increase in the number of people being impersonated indicates that the flat trend seen in 2008 (where identity fraud increased by only 0.06% from 2007) was exceptional. While last year's figures were a surprise, the sudden and significant increase in the first quarter of 2009 heralds an unwelcome return of identity fraud as the fraudsters' method of choice; as fraudsters assume creditworthy identities in order to swindle individuals and companies alike: stealing funds, goods and services at someone else's expense.

Facility takeover fraud continues its relentless rise

During this quarter, a staggering 75% increase in facility takeover (also known as account takeover) frauds - where the fraudster gains access to, and plunders the legitimately obtained accounts of innocent victims - continued the steep upward trend seen throughout 2008. This type of fraud is particularly traumatic for the victim, as the impact goes far deeper than any financial losses. The sense of uncertainty inflicted upon victims often undermines their sense of security and well-being as fraudsters leech off of their accounts.

Insurance fraud rises as consumers feel the pinch

Recent reports about the surge in fraudulent insurance claims have received much attention, and CIFAS figures (based on confirmed frauds that satisfy a burden of proof) show similar increases in the fraudulent claims being submitted to CIFAS Members. As the economic climate bites, some consumers appear to be turning to fraud, and to gross exaggeration or fabrication of insurance claims, in order to make ends meet.

The effects of the recession

As previous CIFAS fraud trends releases have noted, the economic slowdown and rises in fraud go hand in hand. The escalation in identity frauds and in facility takeover frauds in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008 confirms this.

Richard Hurley, CIFAS Communications Manager, explains: "It is a commonly held view that fraud rises to the surface during times of economic recession, and these figures substantiate that. With the alarming rise in identity fraud, we are faced with the possibility of a 'chicken or egg' situation: are these increases caused by - or uncovered by - the recession, as lenders and other businesses look even more closely at their existing books?

"It is undeniable that credit has become more difficult to obtain, and this may go some considerable way to explaining the fraudsters' changing methodology. With application fraud proving less fruitful, they are turning to facility takeovers and attempts to assume identities to get their hands on finance. What has to be remembered, however, is that with less new business coming in, much of the fraud being reported may actually relate to finance that was granted before the recession, which originally escaped the anti-fraud industry's magnifying glass."

Peter Hurst, CIFAS Chief Executive, warned: "There has been much attention given to the financial impact of the current economic turmoil on society. Fraud is yet another aspect, and one that should not be overlooked. While CIFAS and its Members continue to share information about confirmed fraud, and to reap the benefits by preventing further fraud as a result, society's response to any threat is only achieved by all parties working together.

"As we all continue to 'batten down the hatches' economically, these figures demonstrate clearly that we must, individually and collectively, continue to be alert to the threats surrounding us. From looking after our own identities and personal details, through to ensuring that fraud data sharing is used appropriately to prevent further fraud - we must not allow fraudsters to make the cost of recession any greater."