Police in Staffordshire and Derbyshire have issued a warning to people to be on their guard over identity theft after cases in the UK soared to "epidemic levels".
Figures released by the UK's leading fraud prevention group, Cifas, show that almost 500 identity fraud cases are being reported on a daily basis, with those aged between 31 and 50 being the most likely to be targeted.
Identity fraud is when people have sensitive information stolen usually online. It is then used by fraudsters to commit crimes including stealing money from bank accounts.
According to the organisation, 89,201 cases of identity fraud were reported in the UK from January to June this year alone - a five per cent rise on last year.
In most fraud cases, usually occurring online, scammers pretend to be someone in order to purchase a product or withdraw money in the real person's name. Victims don't usually realise they've fallen victim to the scam until a bill arrives for something they did not buy.
Officers at Derbyshire Constabulary have issued advice on their website to those looking to prevent identity theft.
It says: "Fraudsters can use your identity details to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards and loans in your name. The first you know of it may be when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven't ordered. Simple steps can be taken to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity fraud."
How to prevent identity fraud
• Always shred anything with your name, address or financial information on before throwing it away and never leave things like bills lying around for others to see.
• Remember that your bank or building society will never ask for a whole security number, PIN or password.
• Ensure that you check your statements carefully and report any suspicious activity to your bank or financial service provider straight away.
• Inform your bank or credit card company if a statement that you are expecting doesn't arrive.
• If you move house, ask Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year.
• Check your personal credit file ever two to three months after you have moved house to detect any key changes to your credit file which could indicate potential fraudulent activity. Call credit, Equifax and Experian all offer a credit report checking service.
Staffordshire Police are also advising people to never give out personal information.
"Do not give any personal information - name, address, bank details, email or phone number - to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
"Destroy and preferably shred receipts with your card details on and post with your name and address on. Identity fraudsters don't need much information in order to be able to clone your identity.
"Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring to prevent malware issues and computer crimes."
What to look out for
It’s important to remember that most fraudsters start with a 'phishing' email – bank and financial institutions never ask you for personal information or to confirm your bank details over email.
Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine. A good way to guarantee an email is legitimate is to compare the senders address to an authentic source, if they don’t match, the email is fraudulent.