Twelve-million pieces of online personal information were in the hands of fraudsters in the first quarter of 2012 – a 300 percent increase since 2010, according to credit-checking firm Experian.

The company also said that many people were unaware that they were identity theft victims until they were refused credit cards of mobile phone contracts, according to an article from Computer Weekly.

Identity theft victims commonly experience loan or credit card refusal (14 percent), debts being run up in their name (9 percent), refusal of mobile phone contracts (7 percent) and being hounded by debt collectors for money they do not owe (7 percent).

Experian stated that the increase of identity theft was partly due to the fact that people are signing up for an increased number of online accounts – an average of 26 per person – but they only use around five different passwords.