Dealing with identity theft
Identity theft is when a criminal is able to gather enough information about you that they can commit fraud by taking our loans and other services in your name. Identity theft can take place whether the victim is dead or alive. Being a victim of identity fraud can have a massive impact on victims financially, but also in terms of being able to access financial services such as credit cards and mortgages.
How do I know if I have been a victim of identity theft?
These are some signs that might indicate you could be a victim of identity theft.
Missing documents (e.g. passport or driver’s license, national ID, NHS card, etc.)
Missing mail (e.g. bank statements, utility bills, council tax bill, etc.)
Unrecognised transactions on your bank statement
Duplicated Benefit Claims
Unexpected deliveries of products
You get notified about bank accounts or loans in your name which you did not open
You can’t access financial services because you have a low credit score which doesn’t reflect your real credit history
You have been locked out of your bank account
Approaches to dealing with identity theft
Dealing with identity theft can be tricky and time consuming. Proving you did not take out certain financial products can a long process and get frustrating. However, most organisation now have a formal process for dealing with identity theft and you should be able to recover. Action Fraud has a good guide on Identity Theft here.
Act quickly - As soon as you suspect something is wrong take action. The longer it takes to start dealing with identity theft the worse it can get as the criminal takes out more services and spends more of your money.
Contact the organisation involved - If there are problems with your bank accounts, bank cards or you have received a statement for an account you don’t recognise then contact the relevant banks immediately and explain the situation. If it is problems with a passport or other official document then contact the relevant government agency.
Report all lost documents to the relevant organisation - If you have lost important documents like your passport or driving licence then report it to the right organisation ASAP.
Get a copy of your credit report - A credit report will show you any searches done by a lender, what date the search took place, what name and address it was done against and also for what type of application. It will also show what credit accounts are set up in your name. You can contact any one of these credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit report problems caused by identity fraud. Popular companies that can provide your credit report include: Noddle, Equifax, Experian and ClearScore.
Check there isn’t a problem with your mail - Contact Royal mail and check that your mail isn’t being redirected by the criminal. They have an investigation team that can help you check.
Keep a log of your actions - as the process can be long it is worth keeping a note of who you have contacted and when. This may come in handy when disputing requested payments or trying to move organisations along at a quicker pace.
Report the crime
Identity theft is a crime and you should report it. If you are in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you should report all cyber crime to Action Fraud. In Scotland, you can see details of reporting to Police Scotland here.
How to lower the chances of being a victim of identity theft in future
If you find yourself in a position to give out your personal details, before you do so, ask yourself: Who is asking me for my details? Can I confirm the identity of the person that is asking for my details? What details are they asking for? Why do they need to know all these details? If you have any suspicions, don’t give out your details until you’ve checked everything out.
There are a number of other preventative measures that you need to incorporate in your day to day life:
Make sure your PIN is safe (e.g. not written down on a piece of paper that can be found, it is not something that can be easily tracked back to you)
Make sure all documents that have your personal details on them are shredded before being discarded
Use a password for your phone
Use a licensed and up-to-date security software when you’re online
Always check bank statements for unrecognised transactions or changes to your personal details
Regularly check your credit score and associated information
Never reveal your password, login details or account numbers when someone asks them via phone call, text or e-mail
Create strong passwords for use online and don’t use the same ones for all your accounts
Make sure you have two-factor authentication enabled wherever you can (use this site to learn more about this)
Make sure you keep your software up to date with the latest releases. Some of them can be vulnerability fixes that reduce the chances of hacking
If you’re expecting formal documents and they are not arriving, contact the issuing organisation
If you move house, redirect your post for at least a year
Don’t accept invitations from people you don’t know on social media sites
Do not post personal information on social media sites
Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks for accessing apps with personal information (e.g. personal banking, etc.)
Never respond to unsolicited e-mails and phone calls
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