Identity theft can have a devastating affect on the life of the victim.
You may simply need to cancel your credit and debit cards but it can be much more serious if your bank account details have been compromised by someone claiming to be you.
The time and effort involved in correcting this type of fraud can be considerable.
We have put together seven steps that should help protect you from this type of crime.
Seven Things You Must Do to Prevent Identify Theft:
Identity theft and fraud are on the increase, and it’s important to understand the potential risks and protect against them.
As well as the risk of financial loss, suffering identity theft can lead to problems obtaining loans and credit for years to come.
Protecting against identity theft is largely common sense, but criminals are getting increasingly sophisticated in their methods.
The following seven things will reduce your risk of suffering from this crime.
- Protect your personal information.
Never give personal information to someone unless you are sure who they are and what they will be using it for.
Be very cautious if asked to disclose passwords or other security information on the telephone or in emails.
Your National Insurance Number is a prime example of a piece of personal data which should be protected.
Some companies may use your this number as an identification number and publish it on documents which may be seen by others.
If you notice this is the case, ask to have the identification number changed to something else.
- Protect your mail.
Many people believe that identity theft originates online, but criminals accessing mail is still a common problem.
If you have an external mailbox, arrange to collect your mail as soon as you can, and make alternative arrangements if you are away from home.
Your mail contains personal data and account numbers which criminals can use for fraudulent purposes. One small piece of personal data is all that a smart criminal needs to create a duplicate identity.
- Be aware and alert.
Checking credit card bills and bank statements is an easy way to spot the early signs of identity theft.
If you notice any suspicious activity, contact the company concerned and ask questions.
Make a habit of obtaining and reviewing your credit report on a regular basis. Criminals use stolen identities to apply for loans and credit, and keeping a close eye on your credit report can prevent this.
If you notice that you aren’t receiving credit card or other regular bills, this can be a warning sign that criminals have diverted them to another address.
As with all crime, being alert is the easiest form of prevention.
- Be sensible online.
Online frauds are increasingly sophisticated, but simple precautions can prevent you from becoming the next victim.
Never send sensitive information such as bank account numbers by email.
Keep anti-virus software and other security protections up to date.
Any passwords which you use online should contain a mixture of letters and numbers, and be sufficiently long that they are difficult to guess.
If you visit an online shopping site and have any suspicions that it may not be genuine, leave the site immediately.
Banks and credit card companies will not ask for password and sensitive data in emails, so ring the company concerned if you ever receive messages like this.
- Act quickly if you lose your wallet or purse.
credit Losing a card or items containing personal data can be the start of an identity theft nightmare.
If these items fall into the wrong hands and you don’t act quickly enough, things can go from bad to worse.
Contact your bank and credit card provider as soon as you realise you have lost any important cards or documents.
Ask if there have been any transactions since you lost the items, and request that accounts be frozen and new cards issued for them.
- Keep personal information secure at home.
If your home is broken into, thieves may target personal documents and information as well as valuables.
They may use these for identity theft purposes themselves, or sell them on to other criminals.
Keep important documents out of sight, and lock them in a drawer or case if possible.
- Keep your finances simple.
Having several credit cards can be a convenient way to manage your finances, but it also increases the risk of suffering fraud.
The more credit cards and financial products you have, the greater your risk of information falling into the wrong hands.
Finance companies may identify you as someone likely to take more products and start to send marketing materials to you.
If these mail shots fall into the wrong hands, there is a risk of criminals applying for credit cards and loans in your name.
Criminals tend to look for easy targets, and taking these seven steps will make it very hard for them to obtain your personal information and commit fraud against you.