British lawmakers call for ID fraud tsar

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LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) A cross-party group of lawmakers today called on the government to create an ''identity fraud tsar'' to tackle a growing crime that is estimated to cost Britain 1.7 billion pounds a year.

The All Party Group on Identity Fraud said the role was needed to coordinate action by the government, police, and businesses, and also to raise awareness of the problem.

''It's got to be taken far more seriously. We need to have a comprehensive approach,'' Nigel Evans, the group's chairman, told BBC radio.

Research suggests as many as one in four people have fallen victim to ID fraud. In 2006, more than 170,000 cases were recorded at a cost of over 1.7 billion pounds to the economy.

Evans said the public were not doing enough to protect themselves.

''A quarter of people don't check bank statements,'' he said.

''A third of people still throw out personal data in the bin without even tearing it in half. There is such a thing as bin-raiding so these materials are collected by people and in some cases sold on to fraudsters.'' A report by credit reference agency Equifax in July said popular social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo, Facebook and Friends Reunited were providing rich pickings for identity thieves.

The report said the wealth of personal details displayed on these sites, used by millions of mainly young people, was a gold mine for crooks.

Evans said 22 out of 36 police forces in England did not have a strategy to counter the crime. ''We need to ensure there's far more resources going into policing of ID fraud,'' he said.

REUTERS SKB KN1534

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