How to prevent identity theft
Identity theft is a hot topic at the moment and in the UK is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £1.7bn per year according to the Home Office. Fraudsters use your personal details to steal your identity and then gain access to both personal and business bank accounts, run up large bills, clone your credit cards, create false documents such as passports and driving licenses and even launder money in your name.
All this can mean that you may have difficulty in getting a loan, a credit card or a mortgage until it is proved that your identity was stolen.
How is my identity stolen?
Thieves can get your personal details in many ways, for example they may steal your post, go through your rubbish looking for old bills or bank statements, steal your handbag or wallet and may even use software to gain access to your online details.
And it's not only individuals that can be targeted, small business have recently been approached to try to obtain secure filing codes for Companies House. These could then be used to set up fake companies and then get money, goods and services using the fake company.
How can I protect my identity?
Following the 10 tips below will help reduce the tisk of your id being stolen: -
- Be careful if you work or live in a property where other people have access to your post. If you think that your post is being stolen, either in the property or before it reaches the property contact the Royal Mail immediately
- If you move home or business premises tell your bank, credit card companies and anyone else that might send you letters, cheques or bills. Arrange a post redirection with the Royal Mail so that your post is delivered to your new address - of course if you have people sending you post by any of the new companies that are being used instead of the Royal Mail you will have to contact them and ask if they operate a similar scheme.
- If your credit, debit or membership cards are stolen or lost, cancel then straight away - in fact if you think they are lost it is safer to cancel them even if you find them later.
- Check your statements as soon as they arrive and if there are any transactions that you do not recognise contact the relevant organisation (bank, card company, supplier) immediately.
- Don't throw away anything with your name and address on it - shread or tear the details up before disposing of.
- Shread or tear up credit and debit card slips before throwing them away.
- If you get a phone call from anyone asking for your personal details or account details checek that they are who they say they are before providing the information - banks will normally be able to give you details of a regular payment for example. If in doubt ask to ring them back and check the number that they may give you.
- Check your credit file with a credit reference agency to make sure that there are no loans or entries that you do not recognise - although do not do this too often as too many enquiries could lead to a doubt being raised on the file.
- If you are a business do not resond to any calls from people saying that they work at Companies House and are checking your private information or filing codes.
- Never give your passwords out to anyone. Banks and other organisations will never ask you for a complete password, they may ask for certain digits or letters and only if you ring them.
By following the tips above you may not stop yourself becoming a victim but you will certainly be able to stop the process before too much damage is done.
For more details about indentity theft, how to prevent it and what to do if you become a victim in the UK we suggest that you have a look at www.identitytheft.org.uk
A selection of shredders