Using a cross cut shredder to obfuscate the personal details sent to you on junk mail and on utility bills, credit card statements etc. before you throw them away. is excellent advice.
However to conflate such common sense advice against so called "Identity Fraud" (a term which is not covered by any one single criminal offence) with propaganda claiming that the NuLabour ID Card and centralised biometric database scheme is somehow going to have any effect on such fraud, is rubbish, and the Home Office civil servants must be deeply embarassed by it.
It seems that the NuLabour political commissars and spin doctors are at it again, in the run up to the new session of Parliament:
"SHREDDING THE RISK OF ID FRAUD
Reference: 136/2005 - Date: 7 Sep 2005 12:16
A leaflet to advise the public on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and what action to take if you have been a victim was launched today by Home Office Minister Andy Burnham."
"More than 100,000 people are affected by this crime every year in the UK. It occurs when personal information is obtained by someone else without the owner's knowledge. It may support criminal activity including fraud, deception, or obtaining benefits and services in the victim's name."
Is this "more than 100,000 people" figure based on crimes reported to the Police, or on the British Crime Survey ? Is it based on up to date Home Office sponsored quantitative research ? Does this magic figure separate out "online credit card fraud" from "identity document impersonation fraud" ? No - it is just a headline guess by the spinmeisters.
"Shredding personal documents such as bills, receipts and bank statements is one way people can reduce the risk of falling victim to fraudsters and an estimated one million personal shredders are sold each year as a result of public concern about identity fraud. This is a dramatic increase on previous years and other organisations are being encouraged to reinforce the message that simple steps can help the public protect themselves from identity fraud.
Andy Burnham said:
"Identity fraud is a growing crime, costing the country more than £1.3 billion a year. I am pleased that public and private sector organisations have worked closely to develop this leaflet which will help people reduce the chance of becoming a victim of identity fraud and make life more difficult for fraudsters."
No it does not !! This really is Joseph Goebbels style propaganda - keep repeating a big lie until you believe it yourself, and hope that other people will also fall for it. How many times, and in how many ways does this spurious claim about £1.3 billion a year, need to be debunked ? e.g.
If "Identity fraud" , so called, really does "cost the UK £1.3 billion a year", then, since that figure was based on circa 2002 or earlier guesstimates, the Governmnet spin doctors are actually giving the impression that the NuLabour policies in this area, over the last three and a half years, have been an utter failure.
How does Andy Burnham know that it is really a "growing crime", when he, as the junior Home Office Minister responsible for Home Office research and science, has not bothered or not dared, to publish any up to date quantitative research in to this area of crime, and it is not recorded in the British Crime Survey, or in the Police crime statistics ?
How can the public, or even the NuLabour Government themselves, actually judge the effectiveness, or lack of effectiveness of the policies and initiatives in this area, without any real facts ?
""Criminals can use stolen personal details to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, loans, state benefits and other documents in your name - and if your identity is stolen it can take a long time to put your records and your life straight.
"The Government's plans to introduce a National Identity Cards scheme will help individuals to prove their identity and protect it from being misused or stolen by criminals."
Paul Marsh, Director of Cards and Fraud Control Division at APACS and deputy chair of the Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee, said:
"Consumers are the front line defence from the risks of identity theft and fraud, and by following the advice provided in this new publication they can significantly reduce the chance of being a victim.
"This coordinated campaign through the Home Office Identity Fraud Consumer Awareness Group is another good example of the public and private sectors working together to provide a unified front against the menace of identity fraud."
The leaflet advises that you may be at risk of becoming a victim of identity fraud if you:
lose or have had important documents stolen such as passports or driving licences;
don't receive post that you expect to, for example from a bank.
Indicators that you might have had your identity stolen include:
- items appearing on your bank or credit-card statements that you do not recognise;
- applying for a state benefit and being told that you are already claiming;
Far, far more State Benefits fraud is committed by people who are not hiding their real identities, they are claiming for things which they are not entiled to e.g. uneployment benefit whilst working, or invalidity benefit when they are fit for work etc.
It is almost unheard of for you to be told that "you are already claiming", due to "identity fraud" rather than the usual "blame it on the computer system" type cock up !
The few instances of "identity impersonation" used by benefit fraudsters involve assuming the identity of someone who is almost certainly not claiming any state benefits whatsoever !
See the CIFAS study quotes below.
- receiving bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven't asked for;
- being refused a financial service, such as a credit card or loan, despite having a good credit history;
- having a mobile-phone contract set up in your name without your knowledge; or
- receiving letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren't yours.
The leaflets will be available in main police stations, libraries, Citizen's Advice Bureaux, UK Passport Service regional offices and local DVLA offices."
Why is this leaflet not already available on the Home Office website www.homeoffice.gov.uk, or even on their www.identity-theft.org.uk website etc. as a series of web pages, or, failing that as a .doc or .pdf file ?
"Notes to Editors
1. The leaflet 'Identity Theft - Don't become a victim' gives simple, practical advice about how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, what to do if you think you might be a victim and details of where to go for help and support. The leaflet was produced by the Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee.
2. Guidance to prevent identity theft is also available at www.identity-theft.org.uk. The website was launched in July 2004.
3. Using data supplied by CIFAS, credit reference agency Experian identified those people most likely to be a victim of identity fraud. Key findings from the study included:
- young professionals and "middle-aged families" living in central London with office and service jobs are twice as likely to be victims of identity fraud;
- people who earn over £60,000 are almost three times more likely to be victims of identity fraud;
- those with settled families, living in the suburbs and with well-paid corporate careers are four times more likely to be victims of identity fraud.
4. The Home Office set up the Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC) to lead a cross public-private sector work programme to tackle identity theft and identity fraud and share details about new initiatives. The Committee is made up of representatives of: APACS; the Association of Chief Police Officers; the British Bankers Association; CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service; the Department for Constitutional Affairs; the Department of Work and Pensions/ Jobcentre Plus; the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Finance and Leasing Association; the Financial Services Authority; HM Revenue & Customs; the Home Office and the UK Passport Service.
5. The Identity Fraud Consumer Awareness Group is a sub-group of the IFSC. As well as representatives from the Home Office and law enforcement agencies, the group comprises members from: APACS; the British Bankers Association; CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service; the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Financial Services Authority; Royal Mail and the UK Passport Service.
6. As part of the Identity Cards programme, the Committee is involved in co-ordinating existing activity in the public and private sectors, and identifying new projects and initiatives to reduce identity fraud. It includes:
Improving the understanding of the level of identity fraud in this country and estimating its cost to the UK economy;
Establishing more systematically the interventions that will be most effective in countering ID fraud;
Identifying opportunities for combating ID fraud through data sharing;"
More data sharing can lead to more fraud, when relatively secure and private personal data is forced to be shared more widely and with organisations who are not heavily penalised for data privacy breaches.
"Improving the effectiveness of enforcement and prosecution actions and keeping the law under review;
Developing and sharing good practice including procedures for checking and issuing official documents, such as passports and driving licences;
Encouraging the development of new systems to counter ID fraud;
and Raising awareness of the risk of identity fraud and measures that can be taken to manage it.
None of the groups who make up this Quasi-Aautonomous Non-Governmental Organisation or Non-Ddepartmental Public Body, actually have the consumers interest at heart. The primeary focus of the industry groups is to prevent fraud losses to the financial industry companies themselves, not to the individual consumer.
Obviously missing from this mission statement is any talk of making the banks and credit car companies fully liable for losses due to "identity fraud".
Neither is there any plan for the Credit Reference Bureaux to be fined and to pay compensation to the victims of "identity fraud", who they have effectively been libelling and casting aspertions on the good financial reputation of the victims, when they fail to comply with even the most basic of checks, before selling their erroneous data to others.
"7. The previous Home Secretary, David Blunkett, announced the Government’s intention to introduce a compulsory national identity cards scheme on 11 November 2003 (Home Office press notice 307/2004), when the Home Office also published a summary of the proposals ('Identity Cards: the next steps', available at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/comrace/identitycards/publications.html)."
Which did not make out any case for how this would reduce "identity fraud" and by how much.
"8. A draft Identity Cards Bill was published on 26 April 2004(Home Office press notice 159/2004). The Home Affairs Select Committee published its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Identity Cards Bill on 30 July 2004and the Government responded on 27 October 2004(Home Office press notice 331/2004)."
The Home Affairs Committee report heavily criticised this Bill, and it did not agree that it would be of any use in combatting "identity fraud".
"9. The previous Identity Cards Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 29 November 2004and received its second reading in the House of Lords on 21 March 2005. The Bill did not receive Royal Assent by the date when Parliament was dissolved on 11 April 2005.
10.The Identity Cards Bill was reintroduced in the House of Commons on 25 May 2005 and completed its Committee Stage on 21 July 2005. It is expected to have its Third Reading in the House of Commons in the Autumn."
The NuLabour Government curtailed debate on the detail of these Bills, and failed to show any evidence of how they would significantly reduce "identity fraud".
"11.Identity cards will help tackle the type of serious and organised crime which depends on being able to use false identities - terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud through ID theft, and illegal working and immigration."
As shown by Operation Maxim in London, the vast majority of the "false" or "forged" identity papers used by these criminals are foreign identity documents, which even a perfect UK ID Card and biometric database system would have no effect on whatsoever.
"12.For APACS enquiries call 020 7711 6259."