Preventing payment fraud  in Europe


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The contents on this website reflect the views of the Members of the EU Fraud Prevention Expert Group and cannot be attributed to the European Commission


Identity Theft

Identity theft is generally defined as the misappropriation of the identity (such as the name, date of birth, current address or previous addresses) of another person, without their knowledge or consent. These identity details are then used to obtain goods and services in that person's name (source: CIFAS, the UK Fraud Prevention Service). Identity fraud is sometimes used as a synonym, although the concept of identity fraud also encompasses the use of a false, not necessarily real, identity.

Identity theft (and generally identity fraud), as a modern phenomenon, has mainly started in the US and Canada. However, it is now a growing problem in Europe, increasingly affecting society. In the payment area, this kind of fraud has serious implications for its victims (e.g. financial institutions and payment users, whether individuals or businesses) which go beyond the mere financial losses. Indeed, the emotional costs and the cost of "cleaning up own's name" for the payment users may be high.

The increased criminal activity related to identity theft is also explained by the relatively low risk of detection and the, in most cases, even lower risk of prosecution.

Where to learn more about identity theft?

In Europe

  • The FPEG has prepared a report on identity theft/fraud in the financial sector

  • The European Commission organised in November 2006 the conference “Maintaining the integrity of identities and payments: Two challenges for fraud prevention”.

  • UK – Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee This site containing useful information for consumers and traders on identity fraud.

  • UK – Identity Card site This site contains a section on identity fraud and hosts the Cabinet Office Study on Identity Fraud of 2002.

  • CIFAS (UK Fraud Prevention Service) . This site contains a section on identity fraud.

  • Cardwatch . Card Watch is a UK banking industry initiative that aims to raise awareness of card fraud prevention. It is managed by APACS, the UK payments association. The Cardwatch site contains a section on tips for cardholders to avoid identity fraud.

  • London School of Economics The LSE has prepared a report assessing the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications. Several pages (from 97 to 112) relate to identity fraud.

In the US and Canada

  • RECOL Reporting Economic Crime Online (RECOL) is an initiative that involves an integrated partnership between International, Federal and Provincial Law Enforcement agencies, as well as, with regulators and private commercial organizations that have a legitimate investigative interest in receiving a copy of complaints of economic crime. Its site contains a section on identity fraud (click on protection/education)

  • Safe Canada  It contains information on identity theft in its section related to financial safety.

  • US Federal Trade Commission The FTC site contains a section on identity theft. This site contains a large amount of documents, either from the business, consumer or law enforcement perspective. It also contains testimonies before Congress and general reports, including survey reports. Some documents of interest in these pages are: "Take care: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft", February 2005; "ID Theft, what it's all about", June 2005.

  • US Department of Justice Specific site on identity theft prepared by the Fraud section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice











Fraud in non-cash means of payment

Card Fraud

Identity Theft