Identity theft 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 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 licences 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.
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 organisation.
Protect yourself against identity fraud
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 or building society 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 five minutes and call your bank from a different telephone making sure there is a dialling 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 Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year.
- It is particularly helpful to check your personal credit file 2-3 months after you have moved house.
What should you do if you’ve been a victim of identity fraud?
- Act quickly – you mustn’t ignore the problem.
- If you believe you’re a victim of identity fraud involving plastic cards (e.g. credit and debit cards), online banking or cheques, you must report it to your bank as soon as possible.
- It is recommended that regular checks are undertaken with credit reference agencies, such as Equifax or Experian, to establish if a credit line such as a mobile phone contract or a loan agreement(s) has been taken out in your name. If so please report the matter to the relevant organisation identified within your credit report.
- The organisation in question may refund you, and if so, as in line with Home Office Counting Rules, they will be classified as the victim. Therefore reports made to Action Fraud will be recorded as an Information Report that captures the information about what has occurred and this is passed to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which is run by the City of London Police. Updates are not provided for Information Reports, however the intelligence is utilised and could potentially be used within criminal proceedings at some point in the future.
- You should report all lost or stolen documents – such as passports, driving licences, plastic cards, cheque books – to the relevant organisation.
- If you’re not sure which organisation to call, contact Action Fraud for advice.
- Contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry line on 08457 740 740 if you suspect your mail is being stolen or that a mail redirection has been fraudulently set up on your address. The Royal Mail has an investigation unit that will be able to help you.
- Get a copy of your credit report. A credit report will show you any searches done by a lender, what date the search took place, what name and address it was done against and also for what type of application. It will also show what credit accounts are set up in your name. You can contact any one of these credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit report problems caused by identity fraud. Credit reference agencies:
- Look at your credit report closely. If you find entries from organisations 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.
- The credit reference agencies will contact lenders on your behalf where fraudulent applications have been made or fraudulent credit accounts opened in order to restore your credit history to its former state.
Protecting the identity of deceased family members
Criminals sometimes use the identities of deceased persons to commit fraud, which can be very distressing for those close to the deceased.
The Deceased Preference Service offers deceased person mail preference services and provides further information on this issue.
- For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud and cyber crime visit actionfraud.police.uk, or calling 0300 123 2040.
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