Keeping Safe from Identity Theft

Red Star Wealth
by Red Star Wealth

When we think about something getting stolen, our minds can automatically leap to valuable items like cars, purses, wallets, and phones… but our identity is also a valuable thing that can be stolen, and its often not as easy to spot.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to use without your consent. They may use it to do things like:

  • Withdraw money
  • Make unauthorised payments
  • Take out credit cards and loans
  • File tax returns
  • Apply for state benefits in your name

24% of UK citizens have been victims of identity fraud, acting as the highest figure in Europe. As well as this, 75% have been exposed to scams.

How can My Identity get Stolen?

Identity thieves can gain access to your data in a number of ways:

  • Data breaches- where someone gains unauthorised access to an organisation’s consumer data
  • Malware activity- where malicious software is used to access your computer activity or steal your data
  • Phishing- where email, text, or social media (like WhatsApp) is used to steal your information. Fraudsters may pose as reputable companies and organisations, such as your bank or HMRC. They then may ask you to open malware-infested attachments or direct you to a fake website where you’re prompted to enter sensitive information
  • Mail theft- where personal information is found via your mail, such as through bank or credit card statements
  • Wifi hacking- where hackers access your connection to a public network and intercept information you type in, such as passwords and bank account details
  • Mobile phone theft- we now store lots of information on our phones, meaning that if it’s stolen, thieves may be able to access information off various apps that stay automatically logged in

How do I Know if My Identity has been Stolen?

Signs to look out for:

  • You have lost or had stolen important documents, such as your driving license or passport
  • Mail from your bank or utility providers has not arrived in the post
  • You have received emails notifying you of recent logins you haven’t made to your online accounts
  • You have received a notification that a company you use has experienced a data breach
  • You can see payments you do not recognise on your bank statement
  • Your credit score has gone down unexpectedly
  • You receive bills or receipts from goods or services you haven’t bought
  • You are refused for credit cards or loans despite normally having a good credit rating
  • You receive letters addressed to you regarding debts that aren’t yours

On average it’s taken UK victims 7 months to realise they’ve become a victim of identity fraud, and a further 3.4 months to resolve the issue. This is because it’s easy for our identity to be stolen right under our noses, without us even realising.

Therefore, it’s very important that we take certain steps to protect ourselves from becoming victims of identity theft.

How do I Protect Myself?

Some steps you can take to protect yourself are:

  • Shredding old documents that contain things like your name, address, card details, or other personal information
  • Storing important documents like your passport, bank statements, etc, in a safe place
  • Monitoring your credit report regularly
  • Hanging up the phone if you are unsure whether the person contacting you is legitimate, and ringing back using a known number
  • Always checking your bank and credit card statements and transaction histories
  • Updating everyone of your new address if you move home, or alternatively, redirecting your mail by contacting Royal Mail 
  • Ensuring your computer has up-to-date virus software and a firewall installed

What if I think I’m a Victim of Identity Fraud?

If you think you have been a victim of identity fraud, you should:

  • Contact your bank immediately and explain the situation to them
  • Report it to the police and ask for a crime reference number
  • Keep all copies of any correspondence to do with the fraud
  • Report any stolen documents to the issuing organisation
  • Contact credit reference agencies, explain you have been a victim of identity theft and ask them to remove the credit accounts you haven’t applied for from your credit file

For more information and advice surrounding fraud, you can visit Action Fraud’s website by clicking here.

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