The Home Office is at present highlighting the increasing cost of
Identity Theft to the population of the UK. Current estimates put it
at £1.9 billion per year or £35 per year for each person in the country.
Identity theft is the term used to describe the process whereby a person steals
personal details from an individual and uses that data criminally to obtain loans or
credit cards or even mortgages. In some instances the details of company directors
have been used to obtain loans in the name of the companies.
There are several very simple steps that people can take to reduce or
eliminate the risks, the majority of which are commonsense and donít cost anything.
Most of us regularly receive bills and statements through the door.
Each contains lots of information that is very useful to the fraudster.
It is important to look after this information.
Keep your personal data safe. Donít carry your pin number on a piece of paper
with your card. If you must write it down make it look like a phone number.
Make sure that you have signed the back of all of your credit cards.
If you lose a card cancel it immediately. Waiting until you get home could
cost you money!
Check your statements regularly. Its not just single large transactions that a
fraudster uses. Smaller regular debits, sometimes as little as £10 per week quickly add up.
Donít disclose personal information over the phone.
No bone fide bank or building society will ever ring you up unsolicited and
ask you for your account details especially your password or account numbers or the
verification numbers on your credit cards
(this is the three digit number on the reverse of your card). If you think you do
need to disclose this information ask the person for an extension number and call
them back via the companies switchboard (get that number from the telephone book).
Donít worry about offending the caller. If they are legitimate they should know
better than to ask.
Never just throw personal data away. Almost any document with your name
and address on can be presented as proof of identity to obtain loans etc.
Things like bank statements, credit card bills, utility bills and mobile phone
bills should be destroyed properly not just ripped in half and thrown in the bin.
Consider investing in a paper shredder. They are widely available and inexpensive.
On line security is also important if you are using internet banking.
Probably one of the most important rules is not to reply to unsolicited e mails that
ask you for personal data, especially passwords or account numbers.
If you are in any doubt whether an e mail is genuine donít reply to it.
Make sure your passwords are memorable but not obvious.
If everyone knows you have a dog called Spot then it is not a good idea to use
that as a password. Donít share your passwords around. You might not tell anyone what it
is but can you be so sure about anyone else? Donít write your passwords down.
CIFAS - The UK's Fraud Prevention
Consider registering with the CIFAS protective registration scheme.
Registration on this scheme adds an additional layer of protection to your accounts.
For instance if anyone was attempting to obtain a loan in your name you would be
contacted by CIFAS and asked to verify the application. CIFAS are a commercial
organisation and will charge a small fee for this service. CIFAS can be contacted
by telephone on 0330 100 0180 or visit the Protective Registration page on the CIFAS
website by clicking HERE.
What to do if you believe you are the victim of identity theftContact your Bank or Building Society or Card issuer immediately.
Explain why you think this may be the case and follow their advice.
You may need to change all of your passwords and PIN codes as soon as you can.
The sooner you contact them the less it will cost you!
Report the matter to a police officer or at your local police station.
Further advice and information can be found at www.identitytheft.org.uk