Everyone is now very aware of the threat of identity theft. Criminals are becoming increasingly adept at finding personal details, which they can then use to obtain documents such as passports and driving licences. Ultimately, they are able to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, loans, and hire purchase agreements - in your name!
Should your identity be stolen, you might find it difficult to get loans, mortgages and other credit until the matter is sorted out, a process that can be very time consuming.
Telltale signs that you have become a victim of identity theft include:
- Items appearing on credit card or bank statements that you do not recognise
- Having an application for a loan or credit card refused despite a good credit history
- Making an application for a state benefit and being told that you are already claiming it
- Receiving letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that you do not recognise.
Follow these tips to protect yourself against identity theft:
- Never give personal or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly. Your bank will never contact you and ask you for your PIN or for a whole security number or password.
- If you lose your passport or driving licence or they are stolen, contact the Passport Office or DVLA immediately.
- Cancel any lost or stolen credit or debit cards immediately.
- Check bank and credit card statements as soon as they arrive, and contact the company concerned immediately if they include items that you do not recognise.
- When throwing away documents that are useful to identity criminals – such as credit card receipts, bank statements, bills and other correspondence showing your name and address – shred them before binning them.
- Keep your personal documents in a safe place - preferably locked.
- Regularly get a copy of your personal credit record from a credit reference agency (addresses at the end of this note) to check that it does not include any entries that you do not recognise.
- If you move house, use Royal Mail’s redirection service for at least a year, to stop your post from going to your old address. Also, don’t forget to give your new address to your bank, your lender and all other organisations that you deal with.
- Make it difficult for criminals to find out what your passwords are:
- Never use the same password for more than one account.
- Never use your bank password on other websites.
- Avoid using your mother’s maiden name or family dates of birth as passwords.
- Keep passwords safe and never record them in a way that leaves them open to theft, such as in your purse or wallet.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft or at risk of becoming one, consider using the CIFAS Protective Registration Service. Once you have registered, CIFAS members such as lenders and banks will carry out extra checks whenever anyone, including you, applies for a financial service using your address. They do this to make sure that a criminal is not trying to commit fraud by pretending to be you.
The telephone number of the service is 0330 1000 180 and the email address is email@example.com.
Credit reference agency addresses:
Consumer Services Team
PO Box 491
Phone: 0870 060 1414