THE answer to avoiding becoming an identity theft victim can be found at the end of your hand.

That's according to the man behind a free Yorkshire website aimed at foiling criminals who steal people's confidential information.

Scarborough-based Jamie Jamieson, who operates the site, says following its advice makes it virtually impossible for crooks to take out credit, apply for loans and mortgages and open bank accounts in other people's names.

His tip comes amid the scandal of HM Revenue & Customs losing discs containing the dates of birth, addresses and bank details of 25 million people.

Jamie says the key to ID theft protection lies in sending letters - the templates of which are held on his website - to the UK's three credit reference agencies, Equifax, Experian and Callcredit, warning lenders that any applications they receive must be authenticated by the applicant's thumbprint or be treated as fraud.

"These are called Notices of Correction and lenders must take notice of them," says Jamie, who set up the website earlier this year.

"Nobody else's thumbprint is good enough for an application, and it means that if a lender gives out credit in your name without a print, you are not liable. You can prove beyond doubt the application was not yours, and the fraudster's print can be given to the police as forensic evidence to help track them down.

"Although ID fraud is easy to commit, it's also easy to prevent, but so many people don't realise this. What has happened this week is finally making the public much more aware of the problem. This system is simple, quick and free, but everybody has a choice and it's only as good as the number of people who use it.

"The important thing is that ID thieves can't fake somebody else's thumbprint, and people who've followed our advice say it has been a tremendous weight off their mind because it doesn't give crooks the opportunity. The establishment clearly can't be relied upon to keep people identities safe - we have to take our own precautions."

Jamie's website, which also provides information on how to obtain inkless thumbprint pads, only asks for small donations to be made to St Catherine's Hospice in Scarborough and Cancer Research UK.

Meanwhile, York councillors have renewed calls for the Government's planned national ID cards scheme and register to be scrapped following the child benefit records fiasco.

Heslington councillor Ceredig Jamieson-Ball said: "If the Government cannot be trusted to look after the records of benefit claimants, how on earth can they be trusted to store data on every individual in the UK?

"There will be thousands of parents in York worried about how the Government intends to protect their identity following this loss when they simply can't prove lost data won't fall into the wrong hands."

York's Green Party leader Andy D'Agorne says he and fellow councillor Dave Taylor will donate to a legal fighting fund to defend those refusing to register if the ID card proposals become reality. He said: "Putting all our data in one place will be an ideal way to focus the efforts of every fraudster and computer hacker."