What to do if your identity is stolen
Carrying out everyday tasks such as shopping and personal banking has become easier and quicker than ever before. Unfortunately, the more you use payment cards, mobile wallets and online technology, the more you risk criminals getting hold of your personal details.
Identity theft and fraud are growing problems in the UK. According to Cifas, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, there have been more than 160,000 confirmed cases of identity fraud in the UK in 2015 alone¹. And Experian’s Victims of Fraud service has seen the number of victims of fraud grow 63% between 2010 and 2015².
Criminals want to get as many of your personal details as possible so they can impersonate you and spend your hard-earned money. Once they have that information, they can apply for credit in your name and run up debts without you knowing.
They look for your full name, date of birth, current address and national insurance number, and the passwords and PINs to your bank accounts. Vital photographic ID such as your driving licence or passport could also be stolen and changed by a criminal to claim that he or she is actually you.
There’s nothing high-tech about this as most criminals find this information through the post. This could be your bank statement or salary slip being delivered to your previous address, or simply going astray.
That said, as technology becomes more prevalent, online theft is being more widely used with fraudsters setting up fake websites to get you to type in your digital banking password, which then gives them access to your accounts. So-called ‘phishing’ emails pretending to be from your bank can also lead to your details being stolen.
Social networking sites such as Facebook can also be accessed by fraudsters who ‘mine’ your postings for information.
Criminals also use the telephone – calling you at home or on your mobile, pretending to be a bank or a credit card firm and asking you to confirm your account details.
Everybody is at risk but some will be easier prey than others. Moving home, even if it’s only a couple of streets away, can leave you exposed to bank or credit card statements continuing to be delivered to your old address.
Often the first time you notice that you’ve been a victim of identity theft will be when you try to apply for credit and are turned down because of your level of debts. Worryingly, it takes on average 300 days for an individual to find out they’ve been a victim of fraud³.
Another red flag could be a series of unusual transactions on your credit card, or a letter demanding payment for an account you didn’t set up.
If you think you could be a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact Action Fraud – the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Then inform a credit reference agency, such as Experian, as they hold your credit report information.
If you do contact us, we can tell you what to do and help you set the record straight:
The best way to beat the fraudsters is to protect your precious information.
As far as online safety is concerned, there are simple rules to follow, such as:
²Statistics provided by Experian Victims of Fraud team, March 2016
³Statistics provided by Experian Victims of Fraud team, March 2016
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