How to report identity theft
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information. This can be anything from financial data to details of where you live, your address, your email addresses or your passwords.
Identity theft rarely involves taking anything ‘physical’ – however, it does involve a criminal taking personal information which they shouldn’t have access to, and then using this in an unauthorised way for their own personal gain.
Identity fraud is slightly different – this tends to be the step that follows identity theft, and is what happens when someone uses stolen information to commit fraudulent activity.
What are the signs of identity theft?
- You see withdrawals from your bank account which don’t make any sense
- You stop receiving bills or mail from your bank
- Shops start refusing your cards and cheques
- Debt collection companies begin to contact you about debts which aren’t yours
- Your credit report starts showing accounts and charges you don’t recognise
- Goods you haven’t paid for start arriving at your house
There are several ways to see if you’ve been a victim of identity theft – the important thing is to keep an eye on your bank statements and don’t ignore any suspicious activity.
How to report identity theft
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it can feel like an overwhelming process to get your financial life back on track. However, you mustn’t delay sorting the problem out.
- Report the unusual activity to your bank(s) immediately and cancel any affected cards
- Contact Action Fraud to report the crime, as well as the Post Office – especially if you’re worried someone’s tampered with your mail.
- Contact Royal Mail if you suspect your mail has been stolen, or someone’s set up a mail redirection you didn’t authorise
- If you’re worried you’ve been the victim of a different kind of identity fraud – even if it’s not linked to your finances – report it to the organisation it’s linked with
- Get a copy of your credit report and carefully go through it for any anomalies or suspicious activity
What can thieves do with stolen information?
Fraudsters can use your identity to:
- Open bank accounts and apply for credit cards, loans and benefits
- Open mobile phone contracts
- Buy goods in your name
- Get hold of important documents registered to you, such as your passport, your birth certificate and your driving licence
- Lock you out of your existing accounts
Identity theft and your credit score
Identity theft can have a negative impact on your credit score if you don’t act quickly to sort the issue out.
- If there’s fraudulent behaviour which is associated with you, it can affect your credit report – the ‘online version’ of you which companies see will start to give the impression you can’t manage your finances
- Fraudsters can make it seem like you make irresponsible financial decisions, which will be reflected in your credit report
- However, in most situations the damage to your credit score can be reversed if you report any suspicious activity immediately
How to prevent identity theft
There are several ways to minimise the potential for thieves to steal your identity.
- Make sure you shred documents with any private information on them before you throw them away
- Don’t give any information out if someone who you don’t recognise calls you – your bank will never call you asking for personal information, such as your card numbers or expiry dates. Simply end the call – you should never give out personal information over the phone
- Keep social media accounts to a minimum and make sure your privacy settings are set to high
- Don’t write down passwords and keep them in your bag or in your organiser, and don’t store them in the notes section on your phone
If you are worried about the security of your personal data, your Equifax Credit Report & Score – free for the first 30 days then £7.95 monthly – comes with WebDetect, which alerts you if we find your personal data on websites used by fraudsters.
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