What is it?
ID theft is when your personal information is stolen and used to open bank accounts, take out credit cards and loans or apply for government benefits and documents in your name such as passports and driving licences.
Criminals can steal your identity in a number of ways, for example finding your credit card or bank statements in your rubbish or stealing your driving licence or bank cards from your purse or wallet. Social media can also be used by criminals to find out personal details about you and build a better picture of your identity.
How to spot if your identity has been stolen
- Transactions appear on your bank statement that you don’t recognise
- You receive letters about loans or credit cards you didn’t apply for
- You’re told you’re already claiming government benefits when you apply
- You receive bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven’t asked for
- A mobile phone contract has been set up in your name without your knowledge
Example of identity theft
Larry applied for a mortgage which was subsequently declined due to a poor credit history. He had consistently paid off all his credit cards and built up his credit score so was unsure why this was the case.
He had also started receiving letters from a debt collector for outstanding payments on a mobile phone contract.
When Larry checked his credit report, he discovered numerous entries that he didn’t recognise. He contacted the organisations relating to the entries to check what they were for and raised disputes.
What Larry didn’t realise was that criminals had obtained basic personal information from his social media profile, which included details about his home address, his workplace and other personal information. This was used to target him with a scam email (also known as phishing) as a result of which he had provided the criminal with information about his financial details.
Numerous accounts for loans and mobile phone contracts had then been opened in Larry’s name, none of which he knew about.
If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card and report it to the police by calling 101.