Take care of yourself – Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
When someone steals enough information about someone else’s identity to commit a fraud it’s called identity theft. The information that is especially valuable to scammers includes your name, date of birth, current or previous addresses, email address, plus any accounts and passwords you use. The theft of this information often precedes fraudulent activity but is not in itself considered a recordable crime. The recordable crime is committed when a financial gain is made from the use of that person’s identity by another individual.
Identity fraud can be described as the use of the stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception.
The victim of fraud is the individual (or organisation) who has suffered a financial loss through the use of the stolen identity. The individual whose details have been used is considered to be a victim of identity theft.
Your personal details can be stolen in many ways. Through old credit card and bank statements, credit offers or tax details that you have discarded in your household rubbish. By the theft of your driving licence, or credit or bank cards. By obtaining a credit report by posing as someone who has a lawful right to the information. Your details could even be stolen while you shop as fraudsters ‘skim’ your credit card information when you make a purchase, leading to card cloning or card-not-present fraud.
Often scammers trick people online into disclosing personal information or can glean it from information you have shared on unsecured websites.
Once your identity details have been stolen, fraudsters can use them to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, loans or apply for state benefits. They could order goods in your name, take over your existing accounts, take out mobile phone contracts or obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
Often your first indication that you have been a victim of identity fraud is when you receive an invoice for something you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts you don’t recognise. Once you realise that identity fraud has occurred you should sign up to a credit referencing agency, check and report any activity that has not been initiated by you.
Apart from the impact of identity fraud on your personal finances, it can also make it difficult for you to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved. Like any crime it can also have a psychological impact that lasts long after the event itself. It can affect victims’ confidence and make them feel anxious and unsafe. The individuals typically targeted are often the elderly and other vulnerable people, for whom the consequences can often be devastating.
If you become aware you have had your identity stolen but have not lost any money, you should still report it to the relevant organisations.
Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: www.actionfraud.police.uk
To protect yourself from identity fraud there are several forward steps you can take.
- Be very wary if you receive an unsolicited email or phone call from what appears to be your bank or building society asking for your security details. Remember a bank will never ask for your PIN, or whole security number or password, either over the phone or via email.
- Make sure you create strong passwords for each of your online accounts. Don’t use the same one on different accounts and don’t share them with anyone.
- Be careful if you receive an unsolicited email or phone call suggesting immediate action is required or the need to make a financial payment quickly.
- Online keep your security software up to date and ensure all official software updates and security fixes are installed.
- Shred any paperwork containing your name, address or financial details before discarding.
- If you’re expecting a bank or credit card statement and it doesn’t arrive, inform your bank or card company.
- Make sure that your social media profiles are private so that you are only sharing information with people you really know.
- If you move house, have Royal Mail redirect your post for at least a year.
- Never use public wi-fi networks to access sensitive apps or sites, such as mobile banking.
Further information and help regarding identity fraud is available here:
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