The number of people falling victim to identity theft in the UK has risen by almost a third, new figures suggest.


The BBC reported on 26th May 2015 that criminals are increasingly using internet forums to buy and sell data.


They use the information to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards and commit fraud in other people’s names.


Fraud prevention agency Cifas said the number of victims rose by 31% to 32,058 in the first three months of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.


Identity theft occurs when criminals abuse the personal data or identity details of an innocent victim to impersonate them or to create a fake identity, in order to buy products or services.


One online investigator told BBC News’ Angus Crawford that criminals are heading to online “fraud forums” to swap tips as well as buy and sell credit cards, passports and email addresses.


Forums will typically sell real credit cards with date of birth detail for as little as £5, he said.


Cifas said that more than 80% of identity theft in the first three months of 2015 was attempted or perpetrated online.


The group’s research showed that criminals mainly used people’s identities to set up new credit cards and bank accounts – these accounted for 41% and 27% of all identity theft cases respectively.


The average age for both male and female identity theft victims was 46 years old.


However, Cifas warned that the 21-30 age group continue to be increasingly targeted – with the number of victims in that age bracket up 26% from 2014.


Darren Innes, chief executive of due diligence company C6 Intelligence, told BBC News that the crime can be “traumatic” for victims.


Mr Innes said: “You’re going to be spending an awful lot of time getting the money back.


“You may still be liable and there have been many cases where people have still had to pay bills, even though it has had nothing to do with them in the first place… The mental anguish is quite severe.”


On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police announced that under new legislationofficers across the UK can now arrest people who supply specialist printing equipment or materials – such as identity card printers, printer ribbons, embossers and hot foil presses.


The Met said organised criminals use printers costing around £1,000 to create convincing passports, driver’s licences and bank cards.


The genuine versions are produced on higher quality printers, under strict controls.