What is Identity Theft?
Theft of your identity is lucrative business for criminals. With access to your personal information they can open false bank accounts, order or fake credit cards, get personal loans and even state benefits. Worse, perhaps, they can even get false passports and driving licences in your name.
How to protect yourself?
Criminals most commonly commit identity theft by stealing your personal information from rubbish bins or by tricking you into believing they are from a legitimate organisation. In the short term, identity theft can cause extreme financial hardship to you until it is sorted out. Longer term, the devastation to your credit rating can be colossal. If your identity is stolen it could have repercussions that make it extremely difficult for you to open bank accounts, get a mortgage or even credit cards.
Top tips for avoiding identity theft –
- Check your credit file at one of the credit rating agencies on a regular basis, looking for anomolies so you can flag them quickly.
- Be vigilant if living in a shared property where others may have access to your mail, especially when expecting bank or credit cards.
- If you believe your mail is not arriving as it should then contact your postal service – some criminals will redirect your post to an alternative address.
- If you move house be sure to tell all your banks, credit card companies immediately so they send your financial information to the correct place. Ask your postal service to redirect your mail, for at least a year.
- Keep personal documents safe, preferably locked away. Don’t leave credit cards or even statements on view in your car.
- Shred your documents, preferably with a cross shredder so that they cannot be pieced together.
- If you lose your driving licence or passport then contact the relevant government department immediately.
- Remember, your bank and credit card company already know your details – if they ask for them via phone or email then be very wary indeed.
- Don’t keep written records of account numbers, passwords or PINs, and definitely don’t keep them together!
- Try and use different, and hard to guess, passwords and PIN numbers for each account or credit card you have, thereby ensuring that no-one can have easy access to all of them.