“Fraudsters are some of the cleverest people in society and are able to manipulate the most intelligent of people.”
Det Cons Mark Aldridge, fraud and liaison officer who works in the economic crime unit at Lancashire Police, says identity theft is used by criminals to enable other crimes.
He explains: “Identity theft is almost wholly an acquisitive crime. It involves the creation of false identities or taking over someone else’s identity to commit offences.
“There is a a lot of social engineering designed to induce people to reveal their personal data which will be used against them or used in crime.
“This can be in the form of phishing e-mails pretending to be from a reputable source or fraudsters phoning their victim up pretending to be from official bodies.
“What the fraudster is doing is illiciting information and building up a personal profile of that person to use for a scam. Ultimately, it is usually for financial gain.
“A lot of people do not initially know they have been a victim of identity theft until funds start disappearing out of their account.
“Sometimes, the fraudster can adopt a whole identity and make the victim who is the true holder of that identity appear like an offender.
“When it becomes known, the victim feels like their position has been abused. A lot of them don’t know what they did which allowed their identity to be stolen.”
Det Cons Aldridge says people often discuss information on social media which anyone can see - and this is abused by fraudsters.
He says: “The vulnerabilities people reveal on social media are often used as a weapon against them by criminals.
“People often put information they don’t need to include on social media such as their birthday. Scamsters can gather this information over a period of time and build up a full profile of that person and maybe put in a mortgage application in their name.
“Or someone could say: ‘I can’t wait to go on holiday’ and the criminal might do a burglary or sell that information to someone who is a burglar. All these snippets of information are used against people in identity theft.
“You don’t need to tell your friends when your birthday is or when you are going on holiday. If they are true friends, they will already know.
“My warning to people is: take care what you share.”