We spend much of our lives online, but it’s important that this doesn’t give us a false sense of security.
It doesn’t take much to get hold of enough information to steal your identity. A stray envelope, an old catalogue, a bank statement or the contents of your wallet provide vital information that a criminal can use to pose as you and commit identity fraud, by borrowing money and potentially running up debts in your name.
That’s why keeping a close eye on our personal credit information is so important.
There are a number of simple things we can all do to help protect our identities online, and help avoid becoming a victim to identity theft.
Be careful where you click – It’s best to use websites that you know and trust, Always look for a security padlock icon in the top left hand corner of a page before you register financial or personal information on a website. If an online deal sounds too good to be true, it quite probably is.
Don’t reveal too much on social networking sites – Fraudsters can use personal details like date of birth, age, maiden names or pets’ names to guess private passwords.
Keep pins and passwords private – It may sound obvious to some, but use strong passwords, especially if you have stored payment details, and it’s a good idea to change them every now and then. Try using longer words with a mix of upper and lower case letters and incorporate numbers, special characters – @£%^&* – or accents as well. It’s best not to use obvious words and dates, such as your birthday, pets’ or children’s names, and to try to have different passwords for all your accounts, in order to avoid running the risk of a ‘domino’ effect were one of them to fall into rogue hands. Finally, it’s best if you can memorise details rather than noting them down – never give account details to anyone else.
Secure your device- Make sure you are using the built-in security tools and settings on your device. And if possible, install the latest anti-virus and firewall software. Be careful what information you have stored on your phone – including emails that can be accessed without a password. Think about what you’re looking at online if accessed via open, public Wi-Fi hotspots, particularly online banking. It’s best to do key tasks such as that at home, using a secure home network.
Check your credit report regularly – Make sure everything is accurate and up to date, and query anything that isn’t. Your credit report can highlight irregularities such as suspect applications for credit and rises in card balances. As a CreditExpert member you can get unlimited views of your Experian credit report, which shows credit activity in your name so you can spot potentially fraudulent activity. Our web monitoring tool will monitor the internet for mentions of your personal information 24/7, sending you an instant notification if your information is found somewhere new online. This helps ensure you can take immediate steps to resolve any potential fraudulent activity before you are negatively affected.
Be aware of your surroundings – Make sure you can’t be overlooked when you make a mobile payment; it’s much like using a cash machine or entering your PIN in a shop. Be especially careful around wi-fi – once you’ve joined a public network, your device can be seen electronically by anyone else on the network, so avoid using any password-protected sites or information.
Always tell the police, your bank, credit card issuers and anybody else who might be affected if you suffer a theft. That way, your loss is on the record and organisations that might be approached by the thieves will be forewarned. If you think you have become a victim of identity fraud, notify the police, contact your bank and check your credit report. Experian’s Victims of Fraud service is also available free to CreditExpert members, and has a dedicated team to give expert advice and support tailored to particular circumstances.
For more information from Experian about how to protect your identity visit this link.