More awareness needed to combat identity theft says MEP new European campaign and study launched

06 July 2006
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has today joined fellow MEPs from across Europe in an unprecedented EU wide campaign to raise awareness of identity theft.

The campaign has been launched with a report by one of the EU's leading experts on identity fraud, Professor Martin Gill, which highlights the need for better co-ordination and awareness raising amongst agencies and individual States of the EU.

Speaking from Strasbourg Alyn Smith MEP said "With the number of victims of identity fraud rising every year it is clear that more needs to be done to raise people's awareness of this issue. This report makes it clear that the government could and should do more to combat this growing problem.

"There needs to be a much stronger emphasis on informing people and businesses what action they can take to protect themselves. This should be done locally, nationally and internationally.

"I and other MEPs want to see work on id theft at the EU level. Identity theft can be a cross border crime. There is a need for more and better action, that is co-ordinated across the EU - from local authorities to member states we all have a role to play in combating this kind of fraud.

"It is especially important now as people are going on holiday and often take less care of protecting their identity and have to use id documents like passports more frequently."

Professor Gill's report, looking at the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the EU institutions, states that:

  • Identity offences are recognised as being a problem, but in many cases there is no official data on prevalence rates.
  • In all countries there is some activity to respond to identify offences. Basic information is in circulation although this could be more advanced. People need to be put on their guard, more awareness would facilitate this.
  • There is scope for more co-ordination in responding to identity theft and fraud. In the EU for example, there is a hive of activity but it is not clear whether all of the departments and units involved in developing responses are working in a coordinated fashion.
  • Whilst some countries view identity fraud as less of a problem than others, there are certainly no grounds for complacency when fighting such widespread and varied crimes as identity theft and identity fraud. Professor Gill concludes that
"Identity theft and fraud takes many forms. What we do know is that offenders find it easy and history has shown that they are effective at responding to opportunities, in the criminal world news travels fast. These are reasons enough to be on our guard. The evidence from this study suggests some encouraging signs but highlights the need for better co-ordination and awareness raising amongst agencies and the people of Europe."