Identity Theft Explained

Thumb printIdentity theft is a growing crime that affects 1.8 million people in the UK and is estimated to cost the economy an eye-watering£2.7 billion each year. Despite the fact that most people have heard of identity theft, a surprisingly large number fail to take these simple steps to help stamp-out identity fraud.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft tends to go hand-in-hand with identity fraud whereby your stolen personal details are used for financial gain. Common examples include: opening bogus bank accounts, applying for credit cards in your name or running-up seriously expensive mobile phone bills. Stolen identities are also used to fraudulently acquire legal documents (such as passports or driving licences) by serious criminal networks.

Am I at risk of identity theft?

Unfortunately everybody who is online, and that means you, is at risk of identity theft. In the not too distant past identity thieves could be found rummaging around in your rubbish looking for carelessly discarded financial documents, but today’s thieves are much more tech savvy. And with the growing popularity of online banking and shopping; the problem looks set to get worse.

What should I do if my identity has been stolen?

If you suspect that your identity has been stolen you need to act quickly to make sure that you aren’t liable for any financial loss. The first step is to contact your current financial providers and explain your concerns. You’ll also need to get a credit report which should flag-up any unauthorised debt or credit applications. If your suspicions are confirmed you’ll need to report the crime to the police. Next get in touch with  your home insurance company to check if you are covered for identity theft.

How to prevent identity theft

  • Report any lost or stolen documents to the relevant authorities immediately
  • Be suspicious of post that goes missing – especially financial statements and utility bills
  • Check all bank and credit card statements for unauthorised activity
  • Don’t give out your personal details too freely – especially over the phone
  • Shred all paperwork containing your name and address before disposal
  • Invest in a robust antivirus package and make sure you keep it regularly updated
  • Use a different password for each website and make sure they aren’t easy to guess
  • Be wary of prying eyes when filling-in application forms or entering your PIN number

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