By Charlotte


Identity theft: what it is and how to prevent it

It’s not something anyone ever wants to have to think about, but identity theft is on the rise. With a whopping 189,000 cases reported in the UK in 2018 alone, it’s never been more important to be aware of this crime and what you can do to prevent it.
Luckily, a bit of knowledge goes a long way, so have a read of today’s post to get clued up on how you can reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft.

What is identity theft, and why should you be worried about it?

Identity theft is what happens when fraudsters steal your personal information - such as your name, address and date of birth - and use them to commit fraud in your

This can happen even with the details of someone who’s died.

There are numerous ways in which your personal information can be used fraudulently, including:

  • To order and pay for things online.
  • To gain access to your bank accounts.
  • To secure loans, benefits or phone and other contracts
  • To open bank accounts and credit cards or create official documents such as passports in your name.

Identity theft can have a major impact on your personal finances and credit rating, so it’s vital to take precautions to avoid it happening.

How does identity theft happen, and how will you know it’s happened?

One of the common ways in which criminals can gain access to your personal information is to go through your rubbish or recycling looking for documents such as bank statements. It can also happen online using a process known as ‘phishing’, in
which you’re tricked into typing in your personal details for what seems to be a legitimate website, but is actually one controlled by fraudsters.

Another way is for them to contact you by phone, pretending to be your bank or another organisation and asking you to reveal personal information such as your credit card number or pin number, or a password to the site they’re claiming to be from.

You may not know straightaway that your identity has been stolen. Often, the first sign of trouble is when you start receiving invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or worse, debt collection letters for payments you aren’t aware you owe. You might also

find that you get email alerts confirming that your details have been changed on an online account or with your bank or other financial services provider, when you hadn’t asked them to be changed.

How to prevent identity theft

So, now that you’re aware of the different ways in which criminals can steal your personal details, what can you do to help reduce the risk of this happening? Here are some things to think about.

Be careful about clicking links in emails

Fraudsters can be clever at making their emails look as though they’re from your bank or some other official organisation, such as HMRC. Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • Genuine emails will never ask for details such as your credit card number or pin number, password, login details or anything like this.
  • You may spot warning signs such as poor English or typos, which you’d be unlikely to find in communications from genuine organisations.
  • Take a look at the address the email has come from - even if the sender name has been set as something genuine, looking at the actual email address
    will likely raise suspicions.

If you’ve received a suspicious email, delete it straightaway, without clicking on any of the links in it.

Store documents in a secure container

If possible, invest in a locked secure container to house your documents in, as this means they’re less likely to fall into the wrong hands. It’s much safer than leaving them lying around on desks or in drawers, and means that in the unfortunate event
that your home is broken into, thieves are less likely to be able to take them.

Shred documents before throwing them out

Never simply throw documents into the general rubbish or recycling - always shred them first. If you find you have a lot to shred and it’s too much for a home shredder to handle, try our home shredding services.

Whether it’s bank statements, old bills, out-of-date insurance policies or any other sensitive documents you need to get rid of, we have a range of packages designed to meet your shredding needs - however much or however little you have to shred.

Be careful with incoming phone calls

If you receive a call purporting to be from your bank or another official organisation, and you’re not expecting it, proceed with caution. If you’re at all suspicious - for example, if they’re asking for personal information such as log-in details - tell them you’ll call them back. Then call them on a trusted official number.

Get your mail redirected

Another way for an opportune thief to get access to your personal details is when you move house and your post is still being delivered to your old address. 

For this reason, it’s a good idea to take advantage of Royal Mail’s excellent redirection service, which forwards any post on to your new address.

Have your mail redirected for at least a year, as this means you’ll be able to contact senders of mail over the course of a year to let them know your new address. Redirecting for a whole year or more should cover anything you’re sent annually, such as insurance policy renewal documents.

Sign up for a credit reporting agency

Finally, it’s a good idea to register with a credit reporting agency such as Experian or Credit Karma. These are usually free and allow you to check your credit report, as well as sending you alerts if changes on it. This can be a way of staying alert to anything suspicious with your finances that could indicate identity fraud. With a bit of luck, though, if you’ve followed the tips in this article then any changes to your credit report will be things you’re expecting.

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