Identity fraud is where a thief steals a person’s identity, allowing them to open bank accounts, gain credit cards, loans, state benefits, or simply take over the victim’s existing accounts. The details may also be used to obtain passports and driving licences. The thief then uses that information to commit fraud.
What is the extent of the problem?
It is estimated that crime facilitated by identity fraud costs the UK economy £1.7billion. There are a number of ways criminals use to get personal information:
- Bin raiding – stealing personal information from rubbish bins i.e, bills and bank statements;
- Phishing – emails that are linked to false websites pretending to be banks etc, asking for sensitive information such as PIN numbers and passwords;
- Phone phishing – criminals phoning people pretending to be from the bank asking to confirm personal details;
- Theft – stealing wallets, purses etc and using the personal information;
- Postal theft – information stolen from post;
- Open sources – information from the internet and social network sites;
- Hacking – software used to gain access to personal computers or company’s systems.
How can I protect myself?
Tips for avoiding becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Keep personal information secure - do not write down or let anyone know your PIN number or passwords. If someone calls you about your personal details or bank accounts, always ring them back through the contact number you would normally use or ask them to give your some reference details that the company would hold. Also, report any stolen or lost identity documents as soon as possible.
- Shred personal documents - destroy anything that contains your personal details (bank statements, bills, envelopes, junk mail). Shred as much as possible. If you are unable to shred documents, tear them up into small pieces.
- Review your financial statements - always regularly look at your financial statements to ensure there are no unknown transactions from your account. Also complete regular credit checks from a credit reference agency to ensure your record is accurate.
- Don’t advertise yourself to become a victim - remove as much personal information as possible from sites on the internet, especially date of birth and addresses.
- Moving house? Remember to redirect your mail - ensure you change your address with all companies and even place a redirect on your post to ensure documentation does not fall into the wrong hands.
- Antivirus Software - always install anti-virus software and a firewall to ensure others cannot access your personal details from your computer.
Where can I get help or further information?
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft take action quickly, do not wait. Once you are blacklisted for credit it may take many years to fully recover the problem. You may have difficulties in obtaining a mortgage or other bank credit.
If you believe you have become a victim of identity fraud and you think an account of yours has been defrauded, please contact the bank or building society where your account is held.
You can also obtain a copy of your credit report from a credit reference agency, such as Callcredit, Equifax or Experian.
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