CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, estimates that 135,000 people were affected by identity theft in the UK in 2005.
It can happen to anyone and the people committing the crimes can get access to your information in a number of ways including going through your trash, “skimming” your credit card number from a retailer or using a device attached to an ATM or obtaining your details through bogus phone or email scams.
To protect yourself, make sure you limit the access other people have to your personal financial information, even friends and family.
Some myths about identity theft:
- ‘It could never happen to me’.
- Only dangerous, anonymous criminals commit identity theft.
- You should only worry about identity theft if your wallet is stolen.
- Identity theft is easy to solve
- More people get their identities stolen online than offline
We should all be on our guard when it comes to identity theft but there are some basic principles you can stick to which can go a long way towards making sure you aren’t a victim.
- Report lost or stolen cards immediately!
- Never give out personal information like your PIN (Personal Identification Number). If someone asks for your bank or card details then make sure you are happy with why they need it. Don’t be embarrassed to ask why!
- Treat all unsolicited email with suspicion; the content and origin of emails can easily be forged. Be very wary about replying to or clicking on anything in an unsolicited email. Don’t use public computers to access personal information.
- If you take a call from an organisation you recognise make sure that they are who they say they are. If you have any doubts then ring them back on the company’s listed number. Never give out your credit card details on the phone unless the call was initiated by you.
- Check your bank statements. It’s amazing how many people don’t even read their account or credit card statements. Make sure that all the transactions in the statements are ones that you have made.
- Use a shredder when you throw out any personal or financial documents. Even shred unsolicited junk mail if it has your personal details on it. If possible it is better to use a criss-cross shredder as strips can still be reassembled.
What to do if you are a victim:
- If you discover that you have been, or suspect that you are, a victim of identity theft then it is important to do something about it straight away. Contact your bank so that they know what has happened, to cancel any cards which are being used fraudulently and to change you PIN. You should also report the matter to the police.
- If you suspect that someone has fraudulently set up a mail redirect from your address – so you may notice that you get no mail or that a number of items you were expecting don’t arrive – then you should contact Royal Mail – 08457 740 740.
- You may also want to check your credit record with one of the three credit reference agencies. Any fraudulent activity should appear here and you will want this noted. The 3 agencies are:
– Experian – www.experian.co.uk – You can order your statutory £2 credit report online, by phone, or in writing. Click here for details.
– Equifax – www.equifax.co.uk – You can order your statutory £2 credit report online, or in writing. Click here for details.
– Call Credit – www.callcredit.co.uk – You can request a copy of your statutory £2 credit report by post. Click here for details.
These agencies provide a range of credit reporting and monitoring services – check their websites for further details of what these services provide and cost.
Information and advice to stay safe online from APACS www.banksafeonline.org.uk
Information and tips on using your plastic cards safely from CardWatch – http://www.cardwatch.org.uk/
Information about identity fraud and how to apply for protective registration from the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service – http://www.identityfraud.org.uk/
FSA information on finance related scams –