Calls for Government to take identify fraud and theft more seriously
14 April 2021
A recent article in The Independent calls for Government to find better ways to hold identity fraudsters to account and give police more power to resource, investigate and prosecute these crimes.
The story is sadly now all too familiar. The reporter’s friend got in touch with her as his mother, who is terminally ill with liver disease and cancer, had just confessed to sending £12,500 to a man she had never met in person but with whom she had been messaging online for several months due to be being lonely and vulnerable after losing her husband. After reporting it to the police it is unknown whether the money will ever be recovered as she willingly gave it away.
The article points out that this is, sadly, not an uncommon scenario. Data from UK Finance reveals a 20 per cent increase in bank transfer romance fraud between January and November 2020 compared to the previous year, with the total value of these scams rising by 12 per cent to £18.5m. The average loss per victim reported to UK Finance members was £7,850 – a significant sum for most people and because the payments are authorised there is often very little the bank or building society will do to reimburse the loss.
Unfortunately, it’s not just this type of scam that’s rocketing either. The report had another message from another friend saying that she and her husband had just discovered that someone had faked their passports and applied for a bridging loan worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in their names against their home. The perpetrator carried out this fraud by viewing their house, which was on the market twice. The latter time with a “contractor” who turned out to be a broker under the impression that this was the home’s owner, not a criminal hoping to break the law. They reported it to Action Fraud and were told they had been the victims of identity theft but not identity fraud as they’d not yet lost any money. There was basically nothing they could do.
There are also scores of examples of deceased identity fraud that can go undetected for years since people that have passed away cannot report that they are victims of fraud. For instance, Police in Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Richmond recently sent letters to bereaved people in the area warning them against the increase in bereavement scams and providing them with advice on how to protect themselves and their deceased loves one from becoming victims of fraud. Stealing the identity of the deceased is now one of the fastest growing forms of identity fraud and sadly the increasing death rate caused by the pandemic is adding fuel to the fire.
It is therefore unsurprising that there are increasing calls for Government to work out how to hold criminals to account and give police power and resource to investigate and prosecute more of these cases than is currently possible.
Organisations are also being asked to be on the lookout for suspicious activity as fraudsters use the personal information of their victims to open fraudulent accounts in order to run up thousands of pounds worth of credit.
For further information on deceased identity fraud please don’t hesitate to contact us.