Identity fraud (also called identity theft) is when somebody pretends to be you. They may do this in order to buy things in your name that they never intend to pay for. You and your bank can end up with the bill. It's becoming more common, so it is more important than ever for you to take action to protect your personal details.
Signs your identity has been stolen
Signs that you have become a victim of identity theft might include:
- unusual payments or direct debits appearing on your bank statements
- important mail going missing- to be on the safe side, you should know when to expect a bank statement or a new cheque book to arrive, and ifit doesn't, tell your bank
- contents of recycling bins and rubbish bags being tampered with
- bills arriving for things that you haven't bought or for services you haven't ordered
- new credit cards appearing on your credit record
Top tips: how to stay safe from ID theft
Using just a few of your personal details, criminals can apply for bank accounts, credit cards, benefits and official documents in your name.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe.
To stay safe online:
- delete suspicious-looking emails without opening them
- keep a good firewall on your home computer
- don't use the same password on all websites
- refuse to give personal information to any company that emails or calls you unexpectedly
- keep your credit card within view when paying at restaurants or shops
- don't respond to emails that seem to be from your bank asking you to 're-enter' your personal details; your bank will not ask you to do that
- don't buy online unless you see the golden padlock on the payments page, and a web address beginning with 'https'
- install all security updates and 'patches' offered by your computer software company
To stay safe offline:
- shred all personal information before throwing it away in your rubbish;this includes bank statements, anything containing National Insurance details,salary information,even old membership cards
- tear off and destroy the name and address on the envelopes you receive before throwing them away
- never give out your personalinformation when you could be overheard
- don't leave personal documents visible in your home; keep them somewhere safe
- tell your utility company and local authority (for Council Tax and electoral register) when you move house
- keep your banking and credit card PIN numbers safe - no bank will ever phone you to ask for your PIN
- make sure your letterbox is secure, and that post can get through and fall safely to the floor
- if you live in a shared building, ask your bank if you can pick up new debit cards or cheque books at your branch
Keep your personal details to yourself
Personal details should only ever be revealed when it is your decision to give them out.Your bank will never ask you for your PIN or your online account password, and neither will any trustworthy online retailer, credit cardor auction site.
To keep your information safe you should:
- never give out your personal details to a telephone caller, such as your date of birth or mother's maiden name
- always delete emails asking you to 'update' bank account details (spoofers can easily use the logos of high street store names, and fraudulent emailswill often appear genuine)
Monitor your credit report
You can order your credit report.Anyone who has ever signed up for a credit card, or taken out a loan or mortgage, has a credit file held by one of three main credit reference agencies. This includes details of organisations with which you have had financial dealings in recent years.
A statutory credit report by post costs 2. When you receive your report, check it thoroughly.
If you find anything that you don't recognise, contact the credit reference agency and let them know.
Report missing mail
If you think your post might have been intercepted or stolen, contact Royal Mail.
You can either report what's happened on the Royal Mail website, or speak to a customer service advisor by calling 08457 740 740.They will direct your query to an investigations unit that specialises in mail problems.
If you move house you can also arrange for Royal Mail to redirect your post for up to a year - even if you move abroad.
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