Your identity is one of your most valuable assets. If your identity is stolen, you can lose money and may find it difficult to get loans, credit cards or a mortgage.
Your name, address and date of birth provide enough information to create another ‘you’. An identity thief can use a number of methods to find out your personal information and will then use it to open bank accounts, take out credit cards and apply for state benefits in your name.
What signs should I look out for?
There are a number of signs to look out for that may mean you are or may become a victim of identity theft:
- You have lost or have important documents stolen, such as your passport or driving licence.
- Mail from your bank or utility provider doesn’t arrive.
- Items that you don’t recognise appear on your bank or credit card statement.
- You apply for state benefits, but are told you are already claiming.
- You receive bills or receipts for goods or services you haven’t asked for.
- You are refused financial services, credit cards or a loan, despite having a good credit rating.
- You receive letters in your name from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.
How do I reduce the risk of identity theft?
- Store any documents carrying personal information – such as your driving licence, passport, bank statements, utility bills or credit card transaction receipts – in a safe and secure place.
- Shred or destroy your old documents so that nothing showing your name, address or other personal details can be taken.
- Monitor your credit report and regularly check your credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity.
- When you move house, contact your bank, credit and store card providers, mobile phone provider, utility providers, TV licensing, your doctor and dentist etc, and give them your new address – you don’t want the new tenants to have access to letters containing your personal information. You can also redirect your mail by contacting Royal Mail.
- Remember, less is more. The less you give away about yourself, the lower the risk of information falling into the wrong hands.
- Think before you buy online – use a secure website which displays the company’s contact details, look for a golden padlock symbol and a clear privacy and returns policy. Check the web address begins with https.
What can I do if I'm a victim of identity theft?
If you think you are a victim identity theft or fraud, act quickly to ensure you are not liable for any financial losses.
- Report all lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books to the organisation that issued them.
- Inform your bank, building society and credit card company of any unusual transactions on your statement.
- Request a copy of your credit file to check for any suspicious credit applications.
- Report the theft of personal documents and suspicious credit applications to the police and ask for a crime reference number.
- Contact CIFAS (the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered you should be aware that CIFAS members will carry out extra checks to see when anyone, including you, applies for a financial service, such as a loan, using your address.
CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service
7 - 12 Tavistock Square
You can also get more advice at:
- Action Fraud (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or Police Scotland (as Action Fraud do not deal with people who live in Scotland).
- Financial Ombudsman Service
To report the theft or loss of post and other important documents:
- Royal Mail
Telephone: 08457 740 740