Identity theft is when your personal details are stolen and identity fraud is when those details are used to commit fraud.
Identity theft happens when fraudsters access enough information about someone’s identity (such as their name, date of birth, current or previous addresses) to commit identity fraud. Identity theft can take place whether the fraud victim is alive or deceased.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, it can lead to fraud that can have a direct impact on your personal finances and could also make it difficult for you to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved.
Identity fraud can be described as the use of that stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception.
Fraudsters can use your identity details to:
- Open bank accounts.
- Obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits.
- Order goods in your name.
- Take over your existing accounts.
- Take out mobile phone contracts.
Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
Stealing an individual’s identity details does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud. But using that identity for any of the above activities does.
The first you know of it may be when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.
Protect yourself against identity fraud
Criminals commit identity theft by stealing your personal information. This is often done by taking documents from your rubbish or by making contact with you and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation.
- Don’t throw out anything with your name, address or financial details without shredding it first.
- If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call from what appears to be your bank or building society asking for your security details, never reveal your full password, login details or account numbers. Be aware that a bank will never ask for your PIN or for a whole security number or password.
- If you are concerned about the source of a call, wait five minutes and call your bank from a different telephone making sure there is a dialling tone.
- Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned.
- Don’t leave things like bills lying around for others to look at.
- If you’re expecting a bank or credit card statement and it doesn’t arrive, tell your bank or credit card company.
- If you move house, ask Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year.
- These credit reference agencies offer a credit report checking service to alert you to any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity: • Callcredit • Equifax • Experian • ClearScore • Noddle
- It is particularly helpful to check your personal credit file 2-3 months after you have moved house.
If you have been affected by this, or any other scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling
0300 123 2040, or by using the online reporting tool at www.actionfraud.police.uk