Safeguard Your Bank Accounts Against ID Theft
Identify theft, has gained in notoriety in the past few years, largely due to the rising use of credit and debit cards and online transactions.
In fact, identity theft has now affected an estimated 4.3 million people in the UK alone, and the numbers of people affected are increasing on an annual basis. Identity theft now costs the UK economy £1.2 billion a year.
What is Identity Theft?Identity theft occurs when a person’s personal information is taken by someone else, most often without their permission, and then used to obtain credit, cash, a passport or other goods or services by deception.
Identity theft is usually associated with targeting individuals, although business identity theft is also a growing and considerable problem.
How Fraudsters Steal your IdentitySo how can your identity be stolen? There are a number of ways in which criminals can obtain enough information about you in order to ‘become you’ for criminal purposes.
Essentially, the thief is looking for three essential pieces of information about you: your full name, address and a national insurance number.
For example, you are at serious risk of having your identity stolen if you discover important documents such as a driving licence or passport are stolen. These documents are invaluable to someone looking to open up new lines of credit or bank accounts in your name.
You should also be suspicious if post from your bank or building society has not arrived, or if you find that you are receiving no post at all.
Some thieves even telephone potential victims, trying to obtain information by pretending to be a solicitor, civil servant, or from the victim’s bank.
Once enough information is obtained, then the fraud can begin. The criminals can then open up new bank accounts, buy mobile phones, go online shopping or even apply for loans under the victim’s name.
Once these accounts have been set up, the thieves usually change the address on any new accounts to ensure that the victim will not be aware of the new charges made under their name until it is too late.
Are You Already a Victim of Identity Theft?Are you worried that you might already have fallen victim identity theft? You should be concerned if you notice any of the following:
- There are unexplained items or charges on your bank statements that you do not recognize
- You apply for a loan or credit card but are refused unexpectedly
- You apply for state benefits but you are told that you are already claiming
- You receive post, statements or receipts for bills that you don’t recognise
- You receive final demands for goods or services in your name, although you don’t recognise them
Protect YourselfThe best protection from identity theft is to be diligent and cautious with your personal details. Try not to give out more information about yourself to strangers than necessary, this includes cold callers who claim to be from organisations such as your bank or the council.
Also, think about getting a shredding machine instead of throwing out bank statements and other documents with your rubbish.
If you are speaking to someone and start to feel suspicious, ask if they can contact you in writing for your details or to call again at a more convenient time – most fraudsters will usually hang up at this point.
If you suspect that you have already fallen victim to identity fraud, then you should first contact your bank and other financial institutions where you think the fraud might have had an effect. For example, if your identity has been used to clean out your current account you need to contact your bank immediately to let them know. Once the financial institutions have been contacted, they may suggest that you contact the police.
Identity theft is on the increase, but by taking simple steps to protect your personal details, you can make life harder for the identity fraudsters.