Identity theft can occur when fraudsters gain access to enough information about someone to commit identity fraud. Once in possession of personal information, a fraudster can use it to:
- open bank accounts
- obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits
- order goods in another person’s name
- take over your bank, credit card or other existing financial accounts
- take out mobile phone contracts
- obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences
This type of fraudulent activity can have a serious and negative impact on a person’s finances, not only through the loss of funds but also making it difficult for them to successfully apply for credit and borrowing, such as loans or mortgages.
Preventing ID theft
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to prevent your identity being compromised.
Unsolicited emails, phone calls or text messages
If you receive an unsolicited email, phone call or text message from what appears to be your bank or other institution asking for your personal details, you should never reveal any security information relating to your account. A bank will never ask you for your full password, online banking code or your 4 digit PIN.
If you have any suspicions regarding the source of the call, call the number printed on your bank statement. Remember to wait to make the call or use another phone as it takes two people to end a call and the original caller may still be on the line.
Statements and bills
Always make sure to shred any documentation containing your name, address and any important personal details (such as bank or credit card details) before throwing it away.
If you’re expecting a statement, card, PIN, cheque book or even a utility bill and it doesn’t arrive, inform your bank, credit card company or other supplier as soon as possible. Check your statements regularly and if you see any suspicious activity on an account, report it to the bank or financial service provider as soon as possible.
Credit report checking
Credit reference agencies such as Equifax, Experian or Call Credit offer a credit report checking service which can help you spot any changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity.
What if my ID is compromised?
If you suspect you have been a victim of ID theft, act quickly as bad debts could end up under your name and address. Here are some steps you can take to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
- If the fraud involves plastic cards, online banking, or cheques report it to the financial institution as soon as possible.
- Report all lost or stolen documents which contain personal information, such as a passport or driving licence, to the relevant organisation.
- Get a copy of your credit report as this will show you any searches done by a lender, what date the search took place, what name and address was given and what type of credit was applied for. It will also show what accounts have been set up in your name. Our guide to credit reports offers more information on this subject.
- Contact CIFAS and ask them to flag your name and address. Any applications for credit in your name or at your address will then be automatically checked.
- If you are unsure which organisation to call when you suspect fraudulent activity has taken place, you can contact Action Fraud for advice.
For a more thorough look at keeping your ID secure, please see our guide to fraud, and PDF on credit card security.