What is identity theft?
Your identity and personal information are valuable commodities which, if stolen, can be used to fraudulently open bank accounts and get credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
The Home Office has produced a very useful leaflet to help protect yourself.
Regularly get a copy of your personal credit file (this costs as little as £2) from a credit reference agency to see if it includes any entries you do not recognise.
Royal Mail offers a redirection service to help prevent identity fraud when you move house. Ask them to redirect any post from your old address to your new one for at least a year. You will have to pay a charge for this service.
If you move house, also tell your bank, credit-card company and all other organisations that you deal with, as soon as possible. To check that your personal details are secure, get a copy of your credit file two to three months after moving.
Always be careful if other people have access to your post. Contact Royal Mail if you think your post is being stolen. Check whether a mail redirection order has been made in your name without your knowledge.
Credit and debit cards
Cancel any lost or stolen credit or debit cards immediately. Keep a note of the emergency numbers you should call.
Be careful to keep your personal information secure when using your card over the phone, on the internet or in shops by making sure that other people cannot overhear you or see your personal information.
Look after your personal documents
- Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a lockable drawer or cabinet at home.
- Consider storing valuable financial documents (such as share certificates) with your bank.
- If your passport or driving licence has been lost or stolen, contact immediately the organisation that issued it.
- Don’t casually throw away documents such as bills, receipts, credit- or debit-card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
- Check statements as soon as they arrive. If any unfamiliar transactions are listed, contact the bank or company concerned immediately.
Banks will never contact you to ask you for your personal identification number (PIN) or for a whole security number or password. Never give personal or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
Don’t use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords on other websites. Using different passwords makes it harder for criminals to access your accounts.
Avoid using your mother’s maiden name or family dates of birth as passwords.
Keep passwords safe and never record or store them in a way which leaves them open to theft, such as in your purse or wallet.
A bank will never contact you to ask you for your personal identification number (PIN) or for a whole security number or password. Keep them secure.
Signs of possible identify theft to look out for
- you have lost or had stolen important documents such as your passport or driving licence; or
- post expected from your bank has not arrived or you are receiving no post at all.
You may already be a victim of identity theft if:
- items have appeared on your bank or credit-card statements that you do not recognise;
- you applied for a state benefit but are told that you are already claiming;
- you receive bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven’t asked for;
- you have been refused a financial service, such as a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history;
- a mobile-phone contract has been set up in your name without your knowledge; or
- you have received letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours
If you think you are a victim
- Report lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and chequebooks, to the organisation that issued them
- Consider contacting CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service to apply for protective registration if you believe you are a victim of identity fraud or at risk of becoming one. Once you have registered, CIFAS members 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. You will have to pay a charge for this service.
- Check your personal credit file and statements from your bank and credit-card company for any suspicious entries or transactions.
- Identity fraud involving the use of plastic cards (such as credit- and debit-cards), online banking, or cheques, should be reported directly to the financial institution concerned. They will then be responsible for undertaking further verification and investigation, and, as appropriate, reporting cases of criminal activity to the police where they will be recorded and subsequent investigation considered.
- Other incidents should be reported to the relevant organisation in the first instance and, dependent on their advice, to your local police station.
Who can help?
To get your credit report:
TransUnion Information Group
Information about identity theft:
5th Floor, 1 Angel Court
London EC2R 7HJ
Bank Safe Online
British Bankers’ Association
CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service
Financial Conduct Authority
Phone: 0800 111 6768
From abroad: +44 20 7066 1000
Typetalk: 18001 0800 111 6768
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
Phone: 08457 740 740
General fraud prevention:
Phone: 0800 555 111
Fraud Reduction Website
Internet Fraud Reduction