Identity theft happens when fraudsters gain enough information about your identity to commit identity fraud. They can then use your identity to open accounts, get credit cards, loans, passports, driving licenses and anything else of value to them.
How to spot identity theft
In most cases of identity theft, fraudsters have already acted on your personal information. You could receive a letter demanding payment for an account or loan you didn’t set up or you may spot unfamiliar payments from your bank account.
This type of fraud can have a lasting impact on your personal finances and make it difficult to obtain credit in the future until the matter is resolved.
How to act if you’re affected
If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, it’s important that you act quickly and don’t ignore the problem.
If you’ve received goods or had credit opened in your name, you should immediately report it to the relevant organisation as quickly as possible. If the fraud is related to a bank, they will be responsible for investigating the issue and reporting it to the police.
You should also get a copy of your credit report and watch it closely for some time. A credit report will show you searches done by lenders and any credit accounts that are set up in your name. If you spot any problems as a result of identity fraud, contact your reference agency and they will help you resolve them.
How to protect yourself
Fraudsters commit identity theft by stealing your personal information, so you should be careful with any documents that contain this information.
- Don’t throw out any letters with your name, address and financial details without shredding it first.
- Never give out personal information such as bank account details, PIN numbers or passwords if you receive an unsolicited phone call or email. Your bank will never ask you for this information.
- Don’t leave important documents or bills lying around for strangers to look at.
- Regularly check your bank accounts and credit reports for any unusual activity.
- If you move house, make sure to update your address details with your bank, utility providers and any other creditors. You can also set up post redirection to ensure anything missed will be caught and redirected to your new address.
Always remember: your identity and personal information are extremely valuable to fraudsters and should be protected. If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft you should report it immediately to Action Fraud as well as your affected credit providers.