The most worrying aspects of having your identity stolen are that it appears to be relatively easy to do and how appalling the consequences of losing your identity in today’s digitally connected world can be.
Essentially, identity fraud means criminals using your personal information for monetary gain, but it can also mean opening bank accounts in your name, redirecting your post to another address or even securing a passport using your personal details. So what can you do to prevent the fraudsters getting enough of your details to be able to clone your identity and then wreak havoc with your finances and your life! We’ve put together a list of tips to help you stay safe and keep the fraudsters at bay.
- Don’t throw anything away that contains any of the following information unless it has been shredded or ripped up to make the document ineligible. So shred the following: Bank statements, utility bills, application forms, chequebook stubs, card receipts and letters that have personal details.
- Be aware of phishing phone calls – if someone asks you to give away personal information over the phone, check their details and get a phone number to call back the organisation and check they are legitimate. See how easy it is to hustle someone’s details on the phone by watching this BBC video.
- Be very alert online – phishing attacks are a growing problem, so keep your email address as private as possible and don’t fall for emails asking you for personal information like bank account details, usernames, passwords or credit card details.
- Remember to set strong passwords. Last year, 20,000Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail passwords were hacked only to find the most popular password was 123456. Try to use a combination of letters and numbers and change your passwords regularly. Also be careful using social networking sites, these can be an easy route to snatching data. Watch this video to see just how easy it is.
- Monitor your credit status regularly, this way you’ll be aware who is doing credit searches on you and if any new accounts have been set up in your name.
If you suspect fraudulent activity then act fast and contact your bank, credit card, store cards, utility and phone companies so they can monitor irregular activity. Also get an agency such as Experian or Equifax to help you resolve the situation. Another source of good advice in the UK is CIFAS, the fraud prevention service.
Follow these simple steps and be vigilant it could save you lots of money and hours of wasted time cancelling cards and chasing up your bank to reclaim the stolen cash.