What is it?
Identity theft happens when fraudsters get 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 happens when someone uses your personal details without your knowledge or consent. They might use the information to get a credit card or loan, to go shopping with your money, or to create false documents like passports and birth certificates. You may only find out that you've been a victim of identity theft when you start to receive bills for things you haven't ordered or received.
How to help prevent it and protect yourself
- Use a shredder to destroy documents like bank statements, utility bills, pre-filled application forms and debit/credit card receipts - anything that shows your name, address or other personal details.
- Check your bank and credit card statements as soon as you receive them - and report any transactions you don't recognise.
- Keep a note of when your bills and statements should arrive in the post. If you don't receive a statement, tell the organisation straight away.
- If you move house, tell your bank, card issuer and all the other organisations you deal with. And redirect mail from your old address for at least a year.
- Get regular updates of your personal credit file to see which financial organisations have accessed your details. It's a good idea to check your personal credit file 2-3 months after you've moved house.
- You can get copies of your credit file from a credit reference agency:
Experian - www.experian.co.uk
Call Credit - www.callcredit.co.uk
Equifax - www.equifax.co.uk
How to spot it
- 'Lost' mail, ie bank statements or credit card bills stop being delivered.
- Rubbish bins look like they've been tampered with.
- You receive bills, invoices or receipts for things you've not ordered. Or you get letters from solicitors or debt collection agencies about debts that aren't yours.
- You receive confirmation letters or statements for accounts you haven't opened.
- There are transactions (normally debits) on your bank or credit card statements that you don't recognise.
- You have a good credit history, but you're turned down for credit because of a default on your record.
- Important documents go missing - such as your passport, driving licence, utility bills or bank statements.
- New accounts appear on your credit file that you don't recognise.
- Searches appear on your credit file that don't relate to an application made by you or anyone else living at your address.
- When you apply for benefits, you're told you're already claiming.
What you should do if you're a victim of identity fraud
- Act promptly. If you have an M&S Bank Card, call 0345 900 0900. And notify any other credit providers straight away.
- Report the crime to the police and request a crime number.
- Keep a record of everything - recovering from identity fraud can be a long and complicated process.
- Send letters by recorded or special delivery - and keep track of how much time you spend dealing with the problem.
- If you're a victim of identity fraud, or if you've had important documents stolen, you can apply for extra protection through CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service. Their Protective Registration Service places a warning on your credit file so that extra identity checks are made if anyone applies for credit under your name.
CIFAS - www.cifas.org.uk
Home Office Government Website - www.identity-theft.org.uk
Calls are recorded.