Protect your identity
Identity fraud or theft is when somebody steals your personal details and pretends to be you. They may do this to buy things in your name and charge them to your bank account. Find out how to protect your personal details and prevent anyone using your identity.
Keep your personal details private
Using just a few of your personal details, criminals can apply for bank accounts, credit cards, benefits and official documents in your name.
There are many ways that someone get your personal information and steal your identity, including:
- finding out your bank details
- taking your passport or driving licence, or copying the details
- copying your credit card details
- accessing your personal information through a fraudulent website or email
- taking junk mail that has your personal information on it
- going through your dustbin to find receipts or other information
Personal details should only ever be revealed when it is your decision to give them out. Your bank will never ask you for your PIN or your online account password, and neither will any trustworthy online retailer, credit card or auction site.
To keep your information safe you should:
- never give out your personal details to a telephone caller, such as your date of birth or mother's maiden name
- always delete emails asking you to 'update' bank account details (fraudsters can easily use the logos of high street store names, and fraudulent emails will often appear genuine)
Stay safe online
To stay safe online:
- delete suspicious-looking emails without opening them
- keep a good firewall on your home computer
- don't use the same password on all websites
- don't give personal information to any company that emails or calls you unexpectedly
- don't respond to emails that seem to be from your bank asking you to 're-enter' your personal details - your bank will not ask you to do that
- don't buy online unless you see the golden padlock on the payments page, and a web address beginning with 'https'
- install all security updates and 'patches' offered by your computer software company
For more information about protecting yourself online, go to:
Stay safe offline
To you stay safe offline:
- shred all personal information before throwing it away in your rubbish; this includes bank statements, anything containing National Insurance details, salary information, even old membership cards
- remove and destroy the name and address on the envelopes you receive before throwing them away
- don't give out your personal information when you could be overheard
- don't leave personal documents visible in your home
- arrange to redirect your mail to your new address when you move
- tell your utility companies (gas, electric and water) when you change address
- keep your banking and credit card PIN numbers safe
- keep your credit card within view when paying at restaurants or shops
- make sure your letterbox is secure, and that post can get through and fall safely to the floor
- if you live in a shared building, ask your bank if you can pick up new debit cards or cheque books at your branch
Don't keep personal information, passwords or bank details on your mobile phone. If it gets stolen, you could lose more than just the handset.
Check your credit report
Checking your credit report regularly can help you spot any suspicious activity, giving you a chance to report it before it goes too far.
You can order your credit report. If you have ever had a credit card, a loan or a mortgage, one of three main credit reference agencies hold a file on you. This includes details of organisations with which you have had financial dealings in recent years.
A statutory credit report by post costs £2.00. When you receive your report, check it thoroughly. The three main consumer credit reference agencies are:
If you see information you don't recognise, contact the credit reference agency and let them know.
Signs your identity has been stolen
You may not know immediately that your identity has been stolen. It is important that you protect your details and be aware of any signs that your identity might have been stolen.
Look out for:
- unusual payments or direct debits appearing on your bank statements
- important mail going missing - you should know when to expect a bank statement or a new cheque book, if it doesn't arrive, tell your bank
- recycling bins and rubbish bags being tampered with
- bills arriving for things that you haven't bought or for services you haven't ordered
- new credit cards appearing on your credit record
Reporting identity fraud or theft
If you think that your identity or personal information has been stolen, report the problem immediately.
Speak to your bank or building society straight away, if you think your credit/debit card, online bank account or cheque book have been stolen or hacked.
If you think your post might have been intercepted or stolen, contact Royal Mail:
- telephone 08457 740 740
For more advice, go to: