Best Practices for Avoiding Identity Theft

Identity theft is the process by which your personal details, such as your full name, date of birth, or current or previous address are stolen. If stolen details are used to gain goods and services, identity theft becomes identity fraud. Identity fraud can have a serious impact on personal finances and may make it difficult to apply for loans, mortgages, or credit cards.

Identity theft and fraud are growing problems in the UK. Cifas statistics show that instances of fraud have risen by 163% since 1999, and by 27% in the first quarter of 2015 alone, with £479 million having been lost on UK issued cards in 2014. Whilst there is no concrete way to prevent identity theft, there are a few practices that can help reduce the chances of becoming a victim of such theft and fraud.

Protecting yourself against identity theft

Criminals can find personal information in a number of ways, such as going through your rubbish for documents or contacting you under the guise of a legitimate organisation. To prevent such occurrences, you may want to consider the following practices:

  • Shredding or destroying anything with your name, address, or financial details before throwing them away can prevent criminals finding key information about you.
  • Never revealing your full password, account, or log in details when you receive contact from what may seem to be your bank or building society can stop frauds from accessing your details. Banks should never ask for your PIN, nor your full passwords or security numbers.
  • Checking bank statements regularly can help to pick up any suspicious transactions, allowing you to report it to your bank or financial service provider as soon as possible.
  • Leaving bills, statements, and other sensitive documents out can be risky – storing them securely in a cabinet or safe can help make sure they are protected.
  • Redirecting your mail when you move house can help safeguard against people mistakenly receiving any sensitive documents.
  • Immediately cancelling any lost or stolen credit/debit cards can prevent others from using your accounts and details. Keeping a list of emergency numbers for such a situation can allow you to take action quickly.
  • Keeping a variety of passwords memorised can reduce the risk of online identity theft. Identical passwords for multiple accounts, or using the same password for banking and other websites could leave you more vulnerable.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of identity theft

If you have any reason to suspect that your identity has been stolen, acting quickly could save you from serious damage. If the problem is left unresolved it could spiral out of control, and while you may have not purchased anything or opened any accounts yourself, the record will still be under your name.

  • If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft or fraud involving credit or debit cards, online banking, or cheques, report it to your bank as soon as you can. They will be in charge of investigating the issue, and will report any criminal activity to the police.
  • Calling Action Fraud for advice can be helpful if you are unsure about what to do.
  • Contacting the Royal Mail if you believe your mail is missing or stolen can lead to them investigating the matter or giving you further advice on what steps to take.
  • Checking your credit report can help you find any irregularities such as lender searches, credit card applications and credit accounts in your name.

Identity theft and fraud can be a very serious concern and may significantly impact to your financial situation. Taking preventative measures can help ensure that your information remains private. For more information on identity theft, visit the Equifax website.

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