Fraudsters are increasingly moving out of the city and targeting older homeowners in the countryside, according to Experian, the credit checker.
Experian’s data shows a 29.5pc rise in third-party fraud against well-off homeowners in the country in 2018, with thousands of people affected.
Third-party fraud is where criminals steal an unsuspecting victim’s identity and then commit crimes in their name.
A classic example is to gather information on a victim, then apply for a bank account or credit card under their name.
This can be done with relatively little information. If a fraudster knows your full name, date of birth, plus current and previous addresses, then they are in a good position to clone your identity.
If the fraudster then intercepts the card by stealing post directed to your house, they can use the credit or debit card as if they were you.
Fraudulent credit card applications rose 31pc in 2018, Experian said.
Fraudsters have traditionally committed this kind of fraud in towns and cities, where they can rely on flats with communal mailbox areas and residents who might not challenge strangers.
But last year saw fraudsters start to change their tactics.
Nick Mothershaw, of Experian, said: “Fraudsters are now moving out of cities and into the nearby countryside.
“They will go to areas where there are wealthy houses.”
The frauds that criminals can commit under the name of a wealthy clone will be larger.
Mr Mothershaw said: “If you’re going to steal someone’s identity, you might as well steal the identity of someone with high net wealth, as the credit limits you are going to be offered are higher.”
Areas near London were particularly affected, especially around Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, Grays in Essex and Sevenoaks and Gravesend in Kent.
The over-60s were the worst-hit demographic for this type of fraud, with an 11.45pc rise logged by Experian last year.
Men are being defrauded more than women, as more of them are high earners.
While victims of third-party fraud might not lose any of their own money, they are still forced to spend time and money convincing financial companies they are who they say they are.