This total, calculated by the Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC) in co-operation with both public and private sector organisations, shows an increase on the£1.3bn cost of identity fraud identified by the 2002 Cabinet Office report, Identity Fraud: a Study.
'These findings confirm the sheer scale of the threat posed by identity fraud to individual citizens, private companies, and Government bodies alike.
'Proving identity is an intrinsic part of life in modern societies.
But our current reliance on documents such as birth certificates, utility bills, and bank statements to prove who we are leaves an open door to identity criminals. One way we can reduce the potential for identity fraud is to introduce a national identity card, backed by a National Identity Register, using biometric technology to crack down on multiple identities and secure personal data on behalf of the individual.
'At the same time we are building on international moves towards incorporating biometrics in travel documents to enhance the security of the British passport. And we will continue to work with law enforcement agencies, private and public sector organisations on practical initiatives to tackle identity crime.'
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 changed the law to align the penalty for fraudulently obtaining a driving licence with that for fraudulently obtaining a passport and made these offences arrestable.
Obtaining either document fraudulently now incurs a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. The Identity Cards Bill includes a new offence of possessing or controlling false identity documents, which would provide the police with the means to disrupt the activities of organised criminals at an earlier stage of their activities.
The latest estimate of£1.7bn has been produced as a one-off exercise using the same methodology as the 2002 Cabinet Office Study to establish trends. It comprises the cost to a wide range of organisations in both the public and private sectors but with more up-to-date figures where these are available, including for the first time figures for the cost of identity fraud for the telecommunications industry. The IFSC is engaged in ongoing work to provide an even clearer picture of the extent of identity fraud in future.
Jack Wraith, Chief Executive of the Telecommunications UK Fraud Forum, said:
'The very nature of the services provided by the telecommunications industry makes us a target for identity fraud. Figures available for
2004 would suggest that the loss, in respect to identity fraud, was in the region of£370 million. The Industry is pleased to work with the Home Office and other industries in combating this problem which, with the advent of modern telecommunications, is a growing problem for everyone.'
The Home Office, in collaboration with other government departments and private sector organisations, set up the IFSC to lead a cross public/private sector work programme to tackle identity theft and identity fraud. The programme co-ordinates existing activity in the public and private sectors and identifies new projects and initiatives to reduce identity crime.
1. A table detailing the latest estimate for the annual cost of identity fraud to the UK economy, and giving a detailed breakdown of the component parts of the new figure, is available at www.identitytheft.org.uk.
2. The 2002 Cabinet Office report, Identity Fraud: a Study, is available at http:www.identitycards.gov.uk/publications.html
3. Membership of the IFSC comprises APACS (the UK payments association), the Association of Chief Police Officers, the British Bankers' Association, CIFAS (the UK's Fraud Prevention Service), the Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Finance and Leasing Association, the Financial Services Authority, HM Revenue and Customs, the Home Office and the UK Passport Service.
4. The Telecommunications UK Fraud Forum (TUFF - www.tuff.co.uk), is a forum for members of the telecommunication industry to meet and exchange information in respect to fraudulent activities being committed against communication service providers. Its mission is to collectively drive down fraud. TUFF is also an active member of the Home Office Identity Fraud Forum.