A small crumb of comfort for all those worried about identity theft is that the financial industry is showing signs of adapting to the problem.

In the UK, specialist companies already offer identity theft protection services. These are fairly comprehensive, but are still thin on the ground and expensive – around £60 ($110) for a year’s coverage.

A competitive development is Citibank’s Citi credit Card, which is promoting a free service for card holders called “Citi identity theft solutions”. It’s not quite a solution to the whole problem, but it will help customers recover their “reputation” if they have been the victim of identity fraud in their name.

Just so long as they are a Citi customer, this even applies even if the card on which the fraud was carried out was not a Citi card.

Presumably you have to be a victim to qualify, but it can also put a password on a customer’s credit report with Experian (a credit agency) so this information can’t be accessed in future without a person’s approval. If a fraudster tries to take out a loan in someone’s name, that person will have to be contacted to approve the transaction

This is all remarkably similar to what is offered with paid services, but it does raise the question of why this approach couldn’t become standard across the industry, whether in the UK or US. If it was, ID theft would at a stroke become more difficult to carry out, and journalists would have less to write about.

The industry looks to sell technology as the answer when it may actually just be cheaper in the long run to introduce more checks on identity. That would send fraudsters elsewhere.