UK fraud reached an all-time high in 2012 with the main culprit being an apparently unstoppable boom in identity fraud, the latest report from the Fraud Prevention Service CIFAS has reported.

Using verified data from its financial services sector membership, the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System’s Fraudscape recorded 248,325 frauds in total, a 5 percent rise on 2011.

Four of the six types of fraud types actually declined (e.g. ‘misuse of facility’ frauds such as bounced cheques), but this encouraging data was offset by precipitous rises in identity fraud, up 9.1 percent, and facility takeover fraud, up 53.3 percent.

These two categories alone accounted for more than two thirds of all reported frauds, with identity fraud on nearly 124,000 incidents and facility takeover (where an existing account is hijacked rather than an actual identity) on 38,000.

Crucially, 80 percent of all the identity crime was committed online, which CIFAS said underlined how the Internet had become the fraud medium of choice.

The targets of identity fraud were pretty predictable, mostly setting up credit and debit cards in a person’s name, taking out loans and conducting mail order frauds.

“The question of ‘whose responsibility is it to defeat fraud?’ looms large of course, as fraud remains a threat both to organisations and individuals,” said CIFAS Communications Manager, Richard Hurley.

“This underlines the need for more public and private organisations to act responsibly and share data to prevent fraud before having to recover losses, together with greater moves made by individuals and law enforcement,” he said.

One myth CIFAS said it could debunk was the idea that flat (apartment) residents were more likely to be ID fraud victims; an analysis of a sample of the data found no particular association.

Fraud is generally more common in urban areas but some fraud can be very localised, depending on the crime.

Hotspots were identified in Gosport/Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Peterborough and Manchester, but fraud is still more likely in London boroughs and the South East as a whole.