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Identity theft not rare in the UK

Jun 25, 2013 Simon Williams

British consumers have had to deal with so many financial hardships over the past few years. The Great Recession took a massive toll on people across the world, and those in the United Kingdom were certainly not spared any of these troubles.

Inflation and expenses for everyday items rose and many workers were laid off, no longer able to find open jobs. Though the economy is starting to sluggishly pick back up now that the fiscal troubles have been all but eradicated, people here are still having a hard time putting the pieces back together. A lot of individuals had to drain their life savings or take a massive hit on their consumer credit scores just to make ends meet.

And now, some British consumers are running into other financial scenarios that are continuing to add to this awful situation - instances of identity theft. Many of these victims have no idea that a criminal has used their personal information to open new lines of credit until they receive bills in the mail for things they didn't buy or they're visited by a debt collector.

The ID theft situation in the U.K. is not the worst in the world, but criminals are certainly taking advantage of many Brits these days.

UK falls to second place in fraud
After ranking first for a number of years, a recent FICO report revealed that the U.K. fell to second place in 2012 regarding the frequency of credit card fraud in Europe, after France. Twenty-nine percent of French citizens were victims of this crime, while the same could be said for 27 percent of Brits.

"Despite a rise of 14 percent last year, U.K. card fraud losses were still 36 percent lower in 2012 than at their peak in 2008," explained FICO's Europe Fraud Chief Martin Warwick.

Not all cities created equal
Consumers, companies and lenders across the U.K. need to be aware that people in some regions seem to be more susceptible to ID theft than others. The Telegraph reported that the area with the most frequency of this crime is the area of East Ham in London, citing data from Experian.

Outside various neighborhoods in London, Cheshire's Altrincham was noted to be the worst region for identify theft, the newspaper detailed. The city ranked three times worse than the entire national average, with 13 instances of the crime occurring for every 10,000 citizens.

Overall, the highest instances of fraud were in cities and radiated outward toward suburbs, The Telegraph explained. Victims from numerous walks of life were targets - Experian revealed that much of the fraud has been taking place in low- to middle-income households, though the rich are also unable to escape these crimes.

Any relief?
Many people who had their credit scores dragged through the mud by criminals can get back in good standing with the help of credit bureaus and law enforcement, but this might take a long time. So what should individuals do in the meantime if they need financial help?

There's always short term lenders. First, administrators at these companies need to know about the ID crimes sweeping the nation so they can be the first line of defense when it comes to verifying a would-be borrower's identity.

After that, they can provide funds to even those with temporarily poor credit scores. A lot of these companies take alternative scores into account, like the Payment Reporting Builds Credit model, for instance. This way, as long as someone can provide proof that they have a history of paying utilities bills on time, they can qualify for a loan.