How Identities are Stolen
Scammers have lots of ways to get identity information, including rummaging through bins, fake websites, a stolen wallet or purse, social media for people who publish too much information about themselves, letters and calls asking for information etc.
But the most common method is “phishing” emails. This means to send out emails designed to get people to input their confidential information. Usually the scammers pretend to be from the victim’s bank or the local council or HMRC or telecoms company, Marks and Spencer, Tesco or one of hundreds of other respectable organisations. The scammer may ask you to send a return email with confidential information or more likely includes a link for you to click on and it will lead to a website that looks correct but is fake and its intention is to collect your confidential information which can then be used or sold to other scammers.
How Do You Know If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
You may notice something strange in your bank or credit cards statements, or receive a phone call from a financial organisation suspicious over something or you may apply for a loan and be refused unexpectedly.
These things may not happen immediately so your identity may have been stolen weeks or even months before you find out.
Immediate Steps on Realising Your Identity has been Stolen
The first thing is to tell the Police and get a Police crime number. You will need that for contacting your insurance company, credit card companies etc.
A. Change all of the passwords on your computer. Use strong passwords i.e. at least 8 characters long and include capitals and symbols.
B. Make sure you have good anti-virus software and anti-malware software on all computers.
C. Run full scans to check if there is any malware on your computers.
Contact any organisations you have financial dealings with i.e. banks, financial institutions, other creditors, auction sites, retailers etc. Keep copies or notes of all contacts (email, letters, phone calls etc,). If necessary then cancel any credit cards and get your accounts changed.
The credit reference agencies can be useful, so contact them to inform them that your identity has been stolen and of your innocence in any dodgy transactions. If they record of any transactions that are in your name but you didn’t do then follow up on these and challenge them with the relevant organisation.
Sometimes, criminals intercept people’s post so if you don’t seem to be getting the usual amount of post then check with the Post Office to see if a redirect order has been put into operation.
CIFAS Protective Registration Service can mark your identity with a red flag that warns organisation seeking to issue a credit card or similar in your name that your identity has previously been stolen and extra checks are needed. This is only for people who have been victims of identity theft.
How to Protect Yourself
Consider: taking the following steps:-
1. Make a list of all your credit and debit cards, including contact telephone numbers for reporting problems and keep it in a safe place.
2. Sign up with a credit reference agency and get your credit report at least once a year, and check every entry looking for anything suspicious. If there is anything suspicious,, report it immediately. Review your bank and credit card statements monthly.
3. Keep your till receipts and card payment receipts etc. for at least 3 months
4. Buy a shredder and shred any financial documents and anything with your name and address on.
5. If someone calls claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, do not give out any personal information on the phone. If important, call the bank or agency so you can be confident of who you are talking with.
6. Do not reply to emails that ask for confidential information and do not click on links in emails or open attached documents unless you are sure they are safe.
7. Make sure your computer has good anti-virus and anti-malware software installed and regularly run scans.
8. Don't use the same password for everything. They should be at least 8 characters long and contain capital letters and symbols..
9. If you're making an online payment or logging in, ensure there is a padlock symbol on the left of the Internet address.
10. Choose to pay by credit, rather than debit, card as it gives you better protection.
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