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 to 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 £1.7 billion. Methods of ID theft involve fraudsters:
- Calling victims pretending to be their bank, or other financial institution and asking customers to confirm their personal details, passwords and security numbers.
- Attempting to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy financial institutions on the internet. This is known as "phishing".
- Using malicious software such as spyware, which can surreptitiously collect personal information from personal computers.
- Gathering details through personal information posted on the web; such as on social networking sites.
- Stealing mail left in communal areas of residential properties or thrown out in the rubbish and your personal data.
Tips on how to protect yourself
- Be careful with your personal information. Never give out personal details or passwords.
- Shred personal correspondence such as bank and credit card statements.
- Re-direct your post when you move.
- Always use an anti-virus programme on your computer.
- Do not respond to suspicious emails.Remember that a bank will not ask for your details via unsolicited emails.
- Protect your pin numbers and change on a regular bais.
- Do not post personal details on the internet.
- Instruct your bank not to accept any payments abroad unless previously authorised.
- Be careful if you live in a property where other people could have access to your mail.
- Be wary of anyone asking for too much information.
- Be careful about who you talk to about your financial information.
- Don’t throw cash machine receipts in bins provided near the machine.
- Check statements as soon as they arrive. Immediately contact your bank if any unfamiliar transactions are listed.
How can I tell if I am victim?
- Are you missing your regular monthly financial statements?
- Have you noticed charges to your accounts that are not yours?
- Have you been contacted by a debt collection agency about outstanding payments for items or services that you have not ordered?
Take Action - act quickly
- Do not ignore the problem
- Once you are blacklisted for credit it may take many years to fully recover the problem. You might have difficulties in obtaining a mortgage or other bank credit.
- When unexpectedly called, ask for a name and contact number and verify this with the organisation before calling back, and ask for a customer reference number.
- Obtaining a copy of your credit report from a credit reference agency such as Callcredit, Equifax or Experian.
I am a victim of identity fraud, what should I do next?
If you have been the victim of identity fraud you need to contact your bank or financial institution in the first instance. You can get more advice here:Bank Safe Online