Who can become a victim?
It is a sad fact that anyone can be a victim of identity fraud. Traditionally, fraudsters targeted those identities that they perceived would offer them the best chance of gaining access to products or services: frequently professional men in their late 30s or older. Today, however, with the changes that the internet has brought to the ways we carry out transactions, victimisation is more random.
So what can I do to keep my identity safe?
You can reduce the risk of your details falling into criminal hands by keeping your personal details to yourself. Here are some tips:
- Treat your personal details as you would a valuable item: as something to be looked after.
- If you use social networking sites, limit the amount of personal information you give away and activate tough privacy settings.
- Only enter your personal details into secure websites (look for https:// at the start of the website address and a closed padlock symbol on your web browser window), belonging to organisations you know and trust.
- Make sure your computer has an up-to-date firewall and is protected by anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes.
- Beware of emails 'phishing' for personal details - these often direct you to realistic-looking but fake websites set up to steal your identity.
- Check the credentials of anyone asking for your personal information, whether by phone, face-to-face or over the internet. If in doubt, don't do it!
- Never share your passwords or PIN numbers with other people.
- If you move home, make sure that you take all steps to ensure the security of your mail.
- Shred any documents that contain your information before you throw them away.
Are there particular computer or online safety steps I should take?
There are some specific steps you can take when using the internet to ensure that your identity remains safe:
- Install up to date anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, an up to date operating system and a firewall.
- Encrypt your wireless network to the highest possible setting - ideally WPA2.
- Block all spam emails and never respond to unsolicited emails.
- Make sure that your passwords for all your accounts are different, and use strong passwords (a mix of numbers and upper and lower case letters) rather than easily guessed details such as names or dates of birth.
- Check and regularly review your social networking privacy settings - and ensure that you only allow the friends in your network access to your profile. Other options could allow strangers to view your information.
- Don't publish your address, phone numbers, emails, date of birth, place of birth, passport or driving licence numbers anywhere. This includes any sensitive information on friends' social networking walls.
- Never access any website involving financial details (e.g. banking or shopping) from public wi-fi hotspots and avoid using your smartphone for such transactions.
- When using smartphones, ensure that you use all the handset security features such as passwords and PINs.
How do I spot the common signs of identity fraud?
There are some common signs that indicate you have been targeted by an identity fraudster. By following the points below, you will be able to spot these signs before serious damage can be inflicted:
- Check your bank, credit card and other financial statements for items you don't recognise.
Fraudsters rely on your complacency. While you can never completely eliminate the chance of becoming an identity fraud victim, you can stay alert. If fraud does strike, the sooner you discover it and raise the alarm, the quicker it will be resolved and the less trouble it is likely to cause you.
If I do become a victim, who can help me to sort it out?
If you discover fraud, don't panic but do act quickly:
Immediately alert any organisations you know to be involved. They will tell you whether you need to contact the police. For example, if debit or credit cards, online banking or cheques are involved, your first step should be to contact your bank or credit card company.
Alert one of the three credit reference agencies
. They will help you review your credit report and identify any fraudulent entries, and will contact all of the organisations involved for you. They will also notify the other two credit reference agencies so they too can offer help.
Consider getting a CIFAS Protective Registration (click here for further details
). For a small fee, a warning will alert most lenders to the fraud so that they can take extra care when dealing with credit applications in your name.
Further information about keeping yourself safe and protected can be found in our reports The Anonymous Attacker and Digital Thieves. Both can be downloaded here.
For more information, please select from the following options:
Identity Fraud: your identity
What is identity fraud?
Is identity fraud serious?