Identity crime

Identity crime will commonly take the form of identity theft, the creation of counterfeit documents, or the misuse of genuine documents. Once a criminal has illicitly created or stolen an identity, they can use this typically to commit fraud and attempt to cross the border undetected.

Some organised criminals will make use of many identities to support their criminal activities. They use false identities to travel undetected and to protect their assets from confiscation. They also use them for criminal activity where proof of identity is required, such as in fraud, financial crimes, people smuggling or illegal working.

Identity theft occurs when criminals access enough personal information about an individual to commit fraud. They use various techniques to steal these details, from outright theft and social engineering to harvesting data through cybercrime. With this information, criminals can impersonate the victim in order to access bank accounts, fraudulently claim benefits or obtain genuine documents in the victim’s name.

Criminals are increasingly stealing identity data online, for example persuading individuals to disclose personal details and passwords through ‘phishing’ emails, and then trading the data.

For more information on phishing see Online threats to consumers.

The provision of counterfeit documents is a lucrative, global business. Criminals tend to obtain sophisticated false documents from specialist providers.

The misuse of genuine documents occurs when criminals modify some aspect of an existing identity (their own or someone else’s) or steal someone else’s identity to apply for genuine identity documents.

It is expected that the criminal use of identity will continue to rise, particularly with the introduction of major government online payment systems which could be targeted by criminals and as the use of the hidden internet grows.

Protecting your identity

The increased availability and ease of access to personal information and business records online makes information and identity theft easier for criminals. Theft can be from both the public and private sectors. Wherever you work, and wherever you are, it is important to protect details of your identity to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. For advice please visit Cyberstreetwise and Action Fraud.

Further information

The Economic Crime command leads the NCA's fight against identity crime. Find out more about the Economic Crime Command

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