What is identity theft?
Your identity and personal information are valuable. Criminals can find out your personal details and use them to open bank accounts, get credit cards and loans, apply for state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences in your name. If your identity is stolen, you may have difficulty getting financial products until the matter is resolved.
You may become a victim of identity theft if:
- you have lost or had important documents such as your passport or driving licence stolen
- post expected from your bank has not arrived
- you are receiving no post at all
You may already be a victim of identity theft if:
- items have appeared on your bank or credit-card statements that you do not recognise
- you applied for a state benefit but are told that you are already claiming
- you receive bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven’t asked for
- you have been refused a financial service, such as a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history
- a mobile-phone contract has been set up in your name without your knowledge
- you have received letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours
How to protect yourself
- Regularly get a copy of your personal credit file from a credit reference agency to see if it includes any entries you do not recognise
- Royal Mail offers a redirection service to help prevent identity fraud when you move house. Consider asking Royal Mail to redirect any post from your old address to your new one for at least a year. You will have to pay a charge for this service.
- If you move house, also tell your bank, credit-card company and all other organisations that you deal with, as soon as possible. To check that your personal details are secure, get a copy of your credit file two to three months after moving.
- Always be careful if other people have access to your post. Contact Royal Mail if you think your post is being stolen. Check whether a mail redirection order has been made in your name without your knowledge.
Credit and debit cards
- Cancel any lost or stolen credit or debit cards immediately. Keep a note of the emergency numbers you should call.
- Keep your personal information secure when using your card over the phone, on the internet or in shops by making sure that other people cannot overhear you or see your personal information.
Look after your personal documents
- Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a lockable drawer or cabinet at home.
- If your passport, driving licence, cards or other personal documents have been lost or stolen, immediately contact the organisation that issued it.
- Don’t casually throw away documents such as bills, receipts, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
If you think you are a victim
Act quickly to investigate your concerns
- Look at your credit report in detail. If you find entries relating to organisations you do not normally deal with, contact them immediately and keep a record of your actions, including who you spoke to and when and any copies of letters sent and received. The credit reference agencies will help you with this – you will only need to contact one credit reference agency and they will contact the others on your behalf.
- Consider contacting Cifas – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service to apply for protective registration if you believe you are a victim of identity fraud or at risk of becoming one. Cifas members will carry out extra checks whenever anyone, including you, applies for a financial service using your address. They do this to make sure that a criminal is not trying to commit fraud by pretending to be you. You will have to pay a charge for this service.
- Identity fraud involving the use of plastic cards (such as credit- and debit-cards), online banking, or cheques, should be reported directly to the financial institution concerned. They will then be responsible for undertaking further verification and investigation, and, as appropriate, reporting cases of criminal activity to the police where they will be recorded and subsequent investigation considered.