Identity theft is when your personal details are stolen, this happens when fraudsters access enough information about someone’s identity such as their name, date of birth, current or previous addresses to commit identity fraud. Identity theft can take place whether the fraud victim is alive or deceased. If you’re a victim of identity theft, it can lead to fraud that can have a direct impact on your personal finances and could also make it difficult for you to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved.
Identity fraud is when those details are used to commit fraud. It can be described as the use of that stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception. Fraudsters can use your identity details to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits, order goods in your name, take over your existing accounts, take out mobile phone contracts, obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licenses in your name and stealing an individual’s identity details does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud. But using that identity for any of the above activities does.
The first you know of it may be when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours. Criminals commit identity theft by stealing your personal information. This is often done by taking documents from your rubbish or by making contact with you and pretending to be from a legitimate organization.
To protect yourself from Identity Fraud, avoid throwing out anything with your name, address or financial details without shredding it first. If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call from what appears to be your bank or building society asking for your security details, never reveal your full password, login details or account numbers. Be aware that a bank will never ask for your PIN or for a whole security number or password.
Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned and avoid leaving things like bills lying around for others to look at and if you’re expecting a bank or credit card statement and it doesn’t arrive, tell your bank or Credit Card Company.
As soon as you realize you are a victim of identity fraud, act quickly. You mustn’t ignore the problem. Even though you didn’t order those goods or open that bank account, the bad debts will end up under your name and address.
If the identity fraud involves plastic cards e.g. credit and debit cards, online banking or cheques, you must report it to your bank as soon as possible. Your bank will then be responsible for investigating the issue and they will report any case of criminal activity to the police. In case of lost or stolen documents such as passports, driving licenses, plastic cards, cheque books, report to the relevant organization or police. When giving your card details or personal information over the phone, internet or in a shop, make sure other people cannot hear or see your personal information.
Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a lockable drawer or cabinet at home. Consider storing valuable financial documents such as share certificates with your bank. Avoid throwing away entire bills, receipts, credit or debit card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
For Passwords and Pins, never give personal or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly. Be suspicious even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. Never use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords for any other websites. Using different passwords increases security and makes it less likely that someone could access any other accounts. In some instances, criminals use the identities of deceased persons to commit fraud, which can be very distressing for those close to the deceased.