Local authorities in the UK are leaving people open to identity theft, according to anti-fraud watchdog, CIFAS.
The organisation said that local authorities have been scanning and posting on their websites all planning applications, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, and even signatures. This, it said, gives criminals enough information to adopt planning applicants' identities.
What concerned the watchdog most was the publication of signatures.
“In combination with the other details, this is Christmas come early for identity fraudsters” said CIFAS’ Chief Executive, Peter Hurst.
Hurst said he had drawn attention of this problem to the Local Authority Associations and UK government and received assurances that the problem is to be looked at.
Among the actions hoped to be taken by local authorities were: making planning applicants more aware that their applications will be published online, and encouraging them “only to submit personal information that they are happy will be made available on the internet”; and confirmation that “there is no necessity to publish signatures”.
CIFAS welcomed this response, which it hopes will be “implemented immediately and applied consistently”.
Hurst said last year there were 137,000 cases of identity fraud in the UK, up from just 20,000 in 1999. In the first quarter of 2006, the figures rose by another 17 percent.
“Local authorities have a role to play in combating this crime by striking the right balance between publishing details as part of public consultation processes and ensuring the security of the personal details entrusted to them,” he said.