The number of identity theft victims in the UK has risen by 69 per cent, credit checking agency Experian has found.The report showed that identity thieves are more determined in picking out victims. Digging through rubbish bins searching for personal information is no longer the preferred means of collecting data for ID thieves, who have moved on to exploiting security flaws on websites to collect sensitive personal information on victims. The details are then used to apply for loans and buy goods.

During the second half of 2006, 2,124 people sought help from the agency's helpline for victims of identity theft - up by 69 per cent compared to the same period in 2005.

Almost half (45 per cent) of those victims were alerted that there was a problem by a financial services company reporting unusual activity on their account, according to Experian . But 41 per cent only found out about the ID fraud when checking their credit report, while the rest found out after being refused credit, a theft, or through un-requested notices.

Criminals are increasingly using a person's current address when applying for credit instead of a previous one, which increases the chances of a successful credit application, said Gary Wood, managing director of Experian's fraud prevention business.

But thieves are also becoming more daring, intercepting credit cards, for example, before they reach the person's letter box. This is most often done by temporarily redirecting post to another address, Wood said.

The Experian report showed that wealthy areas are more likely to be hit by ID thieves, and residents in those areas are also the slowest to notice and report fraud.

People living in the streets in and around Victoria Street in London's Westminster were three and a half times more likely to be targeted for ID theft than the average UK citizen. Londoners on the whole were two and a half times more likely to be victims of ID fraud, Experian said.