Criminals commit identity theft by stealing your personal information. Your identity and personal information are valuable. Criminals can use your personal details to open bank accounts, get credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
This is often done by taking documents from your rubbish or by making contact with you and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation. Identity theft can result in fraud affecting your personal financial circumstances, as well as costing government and financial services millions of pounds a year.
If your identity is stolen, you may have difficulty getting loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved.
The following tips will help you protect your identity and prevent criminals from committing fraud in your name:
- Keep your personal information secure
- Regularly obtain a copy of your personal credit file from one of the three credit reference agencies (Callcredit plc, Equifax plc, Experian Ltd) to see which financial organisations have accessed your details. It is particularly helpful to check your personal credit file two - three months after you have moved house.
- Be extra careful if you live in a property where other people could have access to your mail. In some cases a bank or credit card company could arrange for you to collect valuable items such as new plastic cards or cheque books from a local branch.
- If you suspect your mail is being stolen, contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry Line: 08457 740 740. Check whether a mail redirection order has been made in your name without your knowledge.
- If you move house, tell your bank, card issuer and all other organisations that you deal with immediately. Ask the Royal Mail to redirect any mail from your old address to your new one for at least a year.
- Consider using the Mailing Preference Service to limit the amount of unwanted mail you receive.
- Keep all your plastic cards safe. If your plastic cards are lost or stolen, cancel them immediately. Keep a note of the emergency numbers you should call. Further details can be found on the Financial Fraud Action website.
- When giving your card details or personal information over the phone, Internet or in a shop, make sure other people cannot hear or see your personal information.
- Never carry documents or plastic cards unnecessarily. When not in use, keep them in a safe place.
- Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a lockable drawer or cabinet at home. Consider storing valuable financial documents such as share certificates with your bank.
- If your passport or driving licence has been lost or stolen, contact the issuing organisation immediately.
- Don't throw away entire bills, receipts, credit or debit card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
- Check statements as soon as they arrive. If any unfamiliar transactions are listed, contact the company concerned immediately.
- Keep your passwords and PINs safe. Never give personal or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly. Be suspicious even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. Ask for their phone number, check it is genuine and, if so, call them back. Be aware that a bank will never ask for your PIN or for a whole security number or password. Keep them secure.
- Don't use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords for any other websites. Using different passwords increases security and makes it less likely that someone could access any other accounts.
- Never record or store passwords or pin numbers in a manner which leaves them open to theft, such as in your purse or wallet.
If you think you are a victim:
- Act quickly to make sure that you are not liable for financial losses caused by criminals using your identity.
- Report lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books, to the organisation that issued them.
- Consider contacting CIFAS www.cifas.org.uk - The UK's Fraud Prevention Service to apply for protective registration if you believe you are a victim of identity fraud or at risk of becoming one. Once you have registered, CIFAS members will carry out extra checks whenever anyone, including you, applies for a financial service using your address. They do this to make sure that a criminal is not trying to commit fraud by pretending to be you. You will have to pay a charge for this service.
- If someone has fraudulently opened an account in your name, contact the company concerned immediately.
- Contact your bank or credit card company to report suspicious transactions on your statement.
- Get a copy of your personal credit file and report any suspicious entries. Report the matter to your local police and ask for a crime reference number.
Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by sending and email falsely claiming to be a trustworthy entity, such as a bank or credit card company. The information is then used by scammers to gain access to your accounts and your money!
The e-mail directs the user to visit a web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers. The web site is bogus and set up only to steal the user's information.
Even if the site looks legitimate – be wary! Banks will never contact you by email to ask you to enter your password or any other sensitive information by clicking on a link and visiting a web site. The emails are sent out completely at random in the hope of reaching a live email address of a customer with an account at the bank being targeted.
The UK's Fraud Prevention Service www.cifas.org.uk
Kent Police www.kent.police.uk
Home Office Identity Theft website www.identitytheft.org.uk
Bank Safe Online www.financialfraudaction.org.uk/
Royal Mail www.royalmail.com
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency www.dft.gov.uk/dvla