Fraudsters are stealing the identity of hundreds of people across Sussex.

Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country as offenders steal another person's ID and use it to gain money, credit or goods in that person's name.

Central Brighton has been highlighted as one of the county's ID theft hotspots.

Around 35 per cent of its population fall into a high risk category of those most likely to be a victim of the crime.

Other areas in Sussex highlighted in the survey by credit specialists Experian as ID theft hotspots are Horsham, Haywards Heath, Worthing and Chichester.

Police are warning that many people are making it easy for the offenders by throwing their credit card receipts, bank statements and bills in with their regular rubbish.

Another way offenders are getting hold of personal details is card cloning.

This is where dishonest staff in shops or restaurants swipe a card and details are downloaded onto a computer.

Offenders are also targeting cash machines, often putting fake frontages onto the machines to copy people's pin numbers.

Sussex Police is now warning people not to throw any personal documents into their rubbish and to shred anything they think could contain their personal details.

Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles, of the major crime branch at Sussex Police, said: "There are a number of ways people can protect themselves against identity theft.

"I would strongly urge people to ensure that documents like credit card receipts, bank statements, bills and the like are shredded. Anything with personal information on it needs to be shredded."

Among the victims are Mike Taggart, 31, of Farm Road, Hove.

He was stung for £3,500 after his card was cloned a year ago in London.

The communications executive said the stolen money included a purchase for flight tickets to Rio.

He said: "It turned out that a cash machine I went to had a skimming device which copied my card. It also had a small camera which recorded my pin number.

"I have got to admit I was outraged at the gall of these people but slowly I got a sense of admiration at the ingenuity of the scam."

Andy Swales, 28, of Carden Hill, Brighton, lost almost £600 after his card was cloned at a petrol station.

To make matters worse he found out about his identity theft while he was on holiday in Australia.

It has only been in recent months that Mr Swales has had the money refunded.

He said: "It made me think about how I use my card in the future."

Another common form of ID fraud now is from computers.

New technology has seen new ways in obtaining people's sensitive information. Email phishing attacks are particularly easy to fall victim to especially when banks continue to email customers with a link to their website.

Peter Wood founded First Base Technologies in Shoreham in 1989 to help people set up secure computer networks.

That has evolved into ethical hacking where they attempt to break into companies' computer systems and test their security - much like the Hollywood film Sneakers, albeit without the FBI and all completely legal.

Mr Wood said: "An attack can be achieved by sending out emails pretending to from a bank or building society asking people to click a link to a website.

"They can be quite convincing, asking people to submit personal information which is then sent to the criminal. People do still fall for it otherwise they wouldn't do it. Some organisations still send out legitimate emails to their customers asking them to go to their website via the link.

"If people receive an email which is asking them to go to a website or anything commercial and they are not expecting it they should not go. Even if they think it is legit, they need to go manually rather than directly through the link. People should never ever go through a link in an email."

Mr Wood also warned that the unsecured network of Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes and pubs are prime areas for hackers to take a look into your computer without your knowledge.

Even your home Wi-Fi network is unsafe from hackers cruising along the streets in a van looking for unsecured networks.

Have you been a victim of identity fraud? Leave your comments below or call Richard Gurner on 01273 544531.