Identity (ID) theft is when your personal details are stolen. It is an easy crime to commit and should be included in your list of hazards on your threat assessment because it can affect your client’s life. 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.
- 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.
1. How to protect yourself
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.
Protect yourself against identity theft and leak of information
- Don’t throw 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 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.
- If you are concerned about the source of a call, wait 5 minutes and call your bank from a different telephone making sure there is a dialing tone.
- Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned.
- Don’t leave things like bills lying around for others to look at.
- If you’re expecting a bank or credit card statement and it doesn’t arrive, tell your bank or credit card company.
- If you move house, ask Post Service to redirect your post for at least 1 year.
- It is particularly helpful to check your personal credit file 2-3 months after you have moved house.
- Do not give out personal information, especially on social media sites.
- Shred all important papers and documents in a cross cut (confetti) paper shredder.
- Watch what you throw away. Lock your trash container.
- Limit the number of credit cards you carry with you and don’t write the PIN on the credit itself.
- Stop your mail delivery if you are going on vacation for a length of time.
- Consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service. Several companies offer services to help you in the case that you become victim to identity theft.
- Keep personal documents in a safe. Consider keeping a personal safe for your home as well as a safety deposit box You can use your safe at home to protect items such as your social security card, birth certificate and passport.
- Protect your purse or wallet at all times. The best purses are those that can be zipped or closed shut. Try not to use bags that others can easily see or reach into, and keep bags close to your body with a tight grip at all times. Do not leave wallets or purses in the car, or if you must, do not leave them exposed or in an obvious place.
- Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Make copies of credit cards, ID cards, and all other personal documents you keep in your wallet. Also, keep records of phone numbers to contact in case you need to close accounts or order replacement items.
- Remove yourself from promotional lists such as junk mail and pre-approved credit card lists. This added clutter doesn’t do any good, and you at risk of ID theft if a stranger gets their hands on your pre-approved cards.
- Cancel credit cards that you aren’t using. There’s no reason to have open credit for the taking. Besides, the less credit you have open, the less you’ll have to monitor.
- Select passwords that are difficult for others to uncover. An impersonal combination of letters and numbers is the best.
- Protect your computer with anti-spyware and anti-virus software. Make sure you keep them up to date.
2. What should you do if you’ve been 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 you believe you’re a victim of identity fraud involving plastic cards (e.g. credit and debit cards), 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. The police will then record your case and decide whether to carry out follow-up investigations.
- You should report all lost or stolen documents – such as passports, driving licenses, plastic cards, to the relevant organization.
- Look at your credit report closely. If you find entries from organizations you don’t normally deal with, contact them immediately.
- Remember to keep a record of all your actions, including the people you’ve spoken to and when, and keep copies of all letters you send and receive.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.