Identity fraud is at an all time high, according to Equifax. The credit agency said cases have risen by 68% since 2010 to almost 173,000 last year.

Equifax has also revealed the story of an ID fraud victim whose details were used to apply for 29 different credit cards, personal loans and mail order accounts.

The victim, named only as ‘Martin’, only realised he had been the victim of identity fraud when a credit card he hadn’t applied for dropped through his letterbox.

“I thought it was strange that I had received a Laura Ashely credit card when I hadn’t even applied for one,” he said.

“I immediately contacted the company and spoke to a person in the fraud department who was very helpful and advised Cifas, who added my details to their victim of fraud database.

“In subsequent months I found out the fraud was more prolific than I had anticipated.

“If the fraud hadn’t been identified and stopped the fraudster could have racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt in my name.”

Equifax said Martin’s details could have been taken from Companies House as had previously been a company director.

Cifas, a not-for-profit fraud prevention scheme, said company directors are one of the most at-risk groups for ID fraud, making up nearly 19% of victims despite comprising less than 9% of the UK’s population.

Research by Cifas found that 17% of director-level victims had suffered so-called ‘impersonation fraud’ multiple times over a three-year period.

Everyone is vulnerable – so everyone needs to be vigilant

Lisa Hardstaff, identity fraud expert, Equifax
Atom 245 lives here

Lisa Hardstaff, identity fraud expert at Equifax, said: “Martin’s case clearly demonstrates how fraudsters can apply for multiple credit agreements in the hope of intercepting the correspondence, with the aim of racking up debt in the victim’s name.

“If they are successful, the fraudster will start with low purchase amounts so that they don’t raise suspicion with the credit provider. They then go on to purchase high value items.

“Victims of ID fraud often don’t know anything is wrong until they get an unexpected bill or see money missing from their account. By that time, the fraudsters are long gone.”

She said monitoring services such as that offered by Equifax alert users to activity on their credit report, allowing them to easily spot anything suspicious.

“The reality is that ID fraud is an indiscriminate crime that affects all ages in the UK irrespective of where they live or how much they earn. Everyone is vulnerable – so everyone needs to be vigilant.”