Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and/or belongings so they can use your identity. Sometimes they do this for their own financial gain, which is called identity fraud. You may not even realise the fraud has happened until after the event, when you receive a bill or have trouble getting credit. In fact, Experian, the credit agency, has found that it takes an average of 292 days to discover you’ve become a victim.
So why is this type of fraud on the rise? A recent study has shown that….
- 44% of Britons still don't shred documents containing sensitive information before placing them in the bin
- Only 54% of UK residents routinely check financial statements
- 79% of household waste contains at least one or more items that could assist fraudsters in stealing an identity
How are peoples identities being stolen?
Theft: Personal information can be obtained through stealing someone’s purse or through burglary
Cold Calling: People calling at home, pretending to be legitimate businesses and then tricking the resident into giving away personal information
Hacking: Fraudsters are using technology to hack into computers and smartphones where they can access a wealth of information
Phishing: Criminals are sending emails pretending to be from businesses, asking the receiver to click on a link. This then allows them to access their information
Data breach: Information is stolen from companies/service providers
How to protect yourself against this type of fraud?
- Always shred documents like bank statements, utility bills, application forms, card receipts and letters
- Never give personal information out on the phone. If in doubt, take the callers name, number and organisation and do a few checks before calling them back
- Never click on a link within an e-mail, even when the email looks entirely legitimate. Fraudsters often send emails pretending to be from various companies, including banks, asking the receiver to reset their on-line password.
- Always set strong passwords on accounts. Use a mixture of upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols. Never use ‘password’ or 123456 as your password
- Keep an eye on your credit report, this way you will be able to spot any unusual activity, like accounts opened in your name
- If you’re moving home, make sure you re-direct your mail for at least six month
What should you do if you’ve been a victim?
- Contact all the various companies you have accounts with, like bank accounts, credit cards, store cards, phones and utility providers and let them know. They will monitor your accounts for unusual activity.
- Credit agencies, such as Equifax and Experian can provide steps to resolve the situation and prevent it happening again
- Contact the UK’s fraud Prevention service, CIFAS (https://www.cifas.org.uk/). They will place a note on your credit file that your identity may be used illegally
- Report it to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre. You can do this on-line by going to http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040
- We’re always here to help. You can call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also contact Connect Gwent, our victims hub on 0300 123 21 33 or by visiting http://www.connectgwent.org.uk/