This type of fraud involves criminals accessing your personal information and using it to steal your identity. In other words, they could pretend to be you in order to open bank accounts, get credit cards, loans, and mortgages or to claim benefits. They could even take over your existing accounts and change the addresses.
Identity thieves don't just steal your money; they steal your name and reputation and use them for their own financial gain. This can seriously jeopardise your financial future.
How the fraudsters operate:
- Search through your rubbish to find bills or bank statements.
- Target flats where shared mail boxes make theft easier.
- Bribe or rob postal workers or purchase the information from other criminals.
- Search through unattended bags.
There are a number of warning signs to look out for. If you receive bills or invoices for goods you have not ordered, collection letters for debt you have not accrued or there are transactions on your bank or credit card statements that you do not recognise, then you are at risk. Also be aware if important documents such as your passport or driving licence, have been stolen.
There are a number of steps you can take to avoid falling victim to identity theft:
- Keep all your important documents safe and secure.
- When using a credit or debit card, make sure it’s never out of your sight.
- Be wary if cash machines look as though they’ve been tampered with. Your cards could be skimmed and cloned.
- Never give out your personal details when you’re contacted by phone, fax, post or email if you believe the request isn’t genuine. Always offer to ring back any suspicious callers but check the phone number you are given.
- When throwing out documents which contain personal information, such as bank statements and utility bills always try to shred them so that nobody could read your personal details.
- Always check your bank and credit card statements and immediately report any transactions you don’t recognise, even small amounts.
- Formally close all accounts you no longer need.
- Move your mail when moving home by arranging with the post office to forward your mail to your new address. It’s important that you notify all relevant organisations of your change of address.
If you think you’re a victim
If you have any worries at all and you think that you might be a victim of identity theft, don’t delay:
- Contact your bank or building society and keep a record of all communication.
- Report the matter to the police and note the crime reference number.
- Request a copy of your credit report (such as Equifax or Experian). You can ask for incorrect information to be removed.