Identity theft can be a scary prospect. Many people worry about the risk of identity theft, and the potential impact it could have on their lives and credit history.
This article will introduce you to the risks of identity theft, what identity theft is, as well as the different ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to this type of crime.
I’ll also look at what you can do if you are a victim of identity fraud, and how to stop it from continuing,
Below is a handy table of contents.
Clicking on any of the article headers below will jump you straight to the place on this page you are interested in.
Table of Contents
What Identity Theft Is – A Short Explanation
There is a slight difference between what identity theft is, and what identity fraud is. Identity theft occurs when someone steals or misuses your personal information. Identity fraud is when those details are then used in order to access your money or other assets, or gain access to services in your name.
It’s much more than just stealing your wallet.
ID Theft can result in large financial losses, damage to your credit history, and can take years to recover from.
Identity theft can happen when your personal information is stolen (let’s say your driving licence is stolen) or when someone uses your information without your permission.
It can also happen when companies suffer data breaches – when this happens, all personal details you had on that site is stolen and released to the dark web, where criminals will buy those details and attempt to commit fraud.
This can include your name, address, phone number, date of birth, or a combination of information like a driver’s license number, a National Insurance Number, an account number, or copies of your driving licence or passport.
Identity theft can have a big impact on your life.
It can take time and money to clear up and can affect your relationships and daily activities. It can also affect your reputation, self-esteem and mental health.
First Signs You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft & Fraud
As I’ve already mentioned, there’s a difference between what identity theft is, and what identity theft is not.
Someone could have all of your personal information and do nothing with it 9identity theft), but some will actively use that information frauduently (identity theft turns into identity fraud).
Some of the first signs you’ve become a victim of identity theft are:
- Receiving letters to your home address from services you haven’t signed up to. For example: Internet banks like Revolut, Sumup etc (yes, you may even receive a physical card), Companies House (stating you are now a director of a company), other services like trade accounts etc.
- You see searches on your credit score for things you’ve never even heard of.
- Your credit score goes down for no apparent reason.
- You get letters to your home address demanding payments for things you haven’t ordered or used.
If any of these things start happening to you, YOU MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION. (See below).
How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft & Fraud
The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to be vigilant in protecting your personal information.
Here are some tips to help keep your information safe:
- Stay informed – Read newspapers and magazines, watch the news, and sign up to receive warnings about identity theft, data breaches, and other security issues. If a service you use online writes to inform you about a data breach, make sure the password you’ve used for that site isn’t in use with any other site.
- Protect your computer – Install antivirus software, set up a firewall, use a password, and update your operating system regularly.
- Use Two Factor Authentication wherever possible, on sites such as Paypal, Email etc.
- Take care when putting information online – Use secure websites, don’t share too much information, and regularly delete cookies and your browsing history.
- Be careful with paper documents – Don’t leave them lying around, shred all documents with personal information before throwing them out, and store them in a secure place.
- Be careful who you give your information to – Check a company’s website or Yellow Pages listing before giving them your information, and be careful with health and financial service providers.
- Regularly check your information – Check your credit report for inaccuracies (Credit Club is free, run by Martin Lewis), and monitor your credit card and bank accounts for strange activity.
- Use a password manager, and ensure your password for your email accounts are unique.
Monitor Your Post
Never assume something is junk mail.
Physical letters delivered to your home address can often be the first signs that you are about to fall victim to identity fraud. In fact, it’s probably already happening.
For example, a friend recently received a business account card from Revolut (an online bank) he never asked for.
He did nothing. Ignored it. Thought it was a mistake.
Next, he received a business account card for Sumup (another online bank).
Then he received a letter from Companies House stating he was now a Director of a company.
Only then did he start contacting those companies, and realised he had become a victim to identity theft and fraud.
Monitor Your Credit Report
It’s important to regularly monitor your credit report to look for inaccuracies and signs of identity theft and identity fraud.
You can do this for free by signing up for an account with one of the three credit reporting agencies in the UK: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (30 days free).
Credit Club, which is run by Martin Lewis, is a completely free alternative, but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles the others have, but is perfect for checking loans and searches on your credit history – especially those you have not authorised yourself.
If you notice any errors or suspicious activity, you should immediately contact the companies that appear on the report to rectify it, and you can also can report it to the credit reporting agency to have it corrected.
Having an accurate credit report is important because it’s used by lenders to decide whether or not you get a loan and on what terms.
If you notice something suspicious on your credit report, such as a new credit card account you didn’t open, or an existing account that has been opened and closed by someone else, don’t delay – contact them immediately.
They will investigate and determine if the account is legitimate.
If it isn’t, they’ll help you get it removed.
CIFAS Protective Registration
A lot of people do not know this..
If you know you are a victim of identity theft and fraud is actively being carried out, then this is a crucial step in stopping it.
If you are getting letters through the post, from banks or services you haven’t signed up for, it is absolutely essential you go to the CIFAS site and sign up for Protective Registration.
You will need to pay £25, but this flags your credit profile for extra security checks for 2 years from signup – without affecting your credit profile negatively.
I hope you now have a better understanding on what identity theft is.
To summarise then, do make sure you are careful with your personal information, as well as your personal identity documents.
That’s the first stage. Doing the utmost to not let it happen in the first place.
However, if you do find yourself a victim of identity theft and any subsequent fraud, the steps to take should be immediate and without delay:
- If you receive a bank card from a bank you haven’t signed up for, or a letter for a service you haven’t signed up for, or you see any irregularities in your credit report, contact those businesses immediately to get those accounts shut down.
- Sign up for Protective Registration on your credit file. This flags your credit file, and tells people you are a victim of ID theft. It puts an additional layer of protection on your credit file, without negatively impacting your credit file.
- Call your local police station for advice or call Action Fraud helpline on 0300 123 2040.
Identity theft can have a big impact on your life.
It can take time and money to clear up, and can affect your relationships and daily activities.
You simply cannot afford to ignore it.
It can also affect your reputation, self-esteem, and mental health – as well as causing anxiety and worry.
If you want to protect yourself from identity theft, you need to be vigilant in protecting your personal information.
Stay informed, take care of your paper documents, and regularly monitor your credit report for signs of identity theft.
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Questions & Comments
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Stay Safe. Stay Secure.