How to protect yourself against identity fraud

Man using a tablet with credit card in hand

Protecting yourself from identity fraud starts with keeping your personal information safe with a few simple habits.

There's a lot of advice out there, and that's because there are several ways criminals can steal and use your personal details to commit identity fraud.

We've rounded up advice from the police, the government, ActionFraud, Take 5 and our own Experian fraud experts to bring you the dos and don'ts of protecting yourself against identity fraud.

If there are just three changes you make to your everyday habits, we’d recommend:

  1. Don't respond to unsolicited emails and phone calls.
  2. Use different passwords for different accounts – particularly for your email account and online banking.
  3. Use strong passwords made up of three random words – you can add in numbers and symbols, and use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters if you want.

Safe banking and shopping

  • Never disclose your personal security details such as your PIN or full password.
  • Never let your credit or debit card out of your sight.
  • When entering your PIN, always shield the keypad and make sure no one is watching.
  • Don't keep a written record of your PINs anywhere.
  • Take extra care with contactless payment cards to avoid unauthorised payments
  • Check your credit report for any signs of fraud.

Staying safe online

  • Use strong passwords made up of three random words – you can add in numbers and symbols, and use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters if you want.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts - particularly for your email account and online banking.
  • Keep the software on your computer and smartphone up to date.
  • Check websites are secure by looking for the padlock symbol or 'https' at the start of the website address.
  • Only enter your personal information or credit card details onto secure websites that belong to organisations you know and trust.
  • If you're using public Wi-Fi, don't log in to any sites that need a password (eg your bank, social media or email) or enter personal information such as your card details.
  • Look out for spelling and grammar mistakes. Genuine organisations won't send emails full of errors.
  • Don't open attachments or click links on emails from unknown sources.
  • Don't enter your personal details when asked to do so via an email. For example, your bank would never email you asking you to confirm your internet banking username and password.
  • Mark suspicious emails as junk mail and delete straight away.
  • Don't use illegal streaming and downloading sites, as these often host malicious software or phishing scams.

Protecting your devices

  • Secure your mobile phone or tablet with a screen lock. For added security, you can set it to lock automatically.
  • Only download apps from reputable stores.
  • Don’t 'jailbreak' or 'root' your device as this makes it vulnerable to malicious software.

Handling calls from strangers

  • Be cautious of unexpected phone calls.
  • Be sure you know who you are talking to – it's a good idea to hang up and call the organisation back on its official number.
  • Don’t give away personal information to someone who has cold-called you.
  • Don't be rushed into making a decision or sharing information – a genuine organisation won't mind waiting.
  • If something doesn't feel right, listen to your instincts.

Managing your social media profile

  • Don't share personal details such as your date of birth or home address.
  • Think twice about using location features that automatically make your whereabouts known.
  • Only accept friends who you actually know.
  • Set your privacy settings so that only your friends see what you post.

Managing your mail

  • Always shred or destroy documents that contain personal information, like your name, address or financial details, before throwing them away.
  • If you're expecting a bank or credit card statement that doesn't arrive, let your bank know.
  • Contact Royal Mail if any of your mail goes missing.
  • If you live in shared accommodation, get an individual and secure mailbox.

If you move house

  • Set up mail redirection with Royal Mail for at least a year.
  • Check your credit report for any signs of fraud. The optimal time to do this is 2-3 months after the move, as any new accounts should be listed.

Watch the video for our top tips on protecting yourself from fraud.


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