Identity Theft and Fraud
What you need to know – and what to do
Action Fraud (the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre) describes Identity theft as when your personal details are stolen and identity fraud as when those details are used to commit fraud.
What is Identity theft?
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.
What is Identity fraud?
Identity fraud is the use of 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 a passport or driving licence in your name
According to Action Fraud, stealing an individual’s identity details does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud. However, using that identity for any of the above activities does constitute identify fraud. 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.
Criminals commit identity theft by stealing your personal information. This is often done by taking documents from your rubbish or by contacting you and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation.
How to protect yourself against identity fraud:
- 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 dialing 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 to a new house, ask Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year. It is helpful to check your personal credit file two-three months after you have moved to a new house.
What should you do if you've been a victim of identity fraud?
- Act quickly – don’t ignore it. Even though you didn’t order those goods or open that bank account, the bad debts will end up under your name and address
- If you believe you’re a victim of identity fraud involving plastic cards (e.g. credit and debit cards), online banking or cheques, report it to your bank as soon as possible. Your bank will then be responsible for investigating the issue and they will report any case of criminal activity to the police. The police will then record your case and decide whether to carry out follow-up investigations
- If you think you’re a victim of another kind of identity fraud, you must report the matter to the relevant organisation. Depending on their advice, you should then alert your local police force.
- You should report all lost or stolen documents – such as passports, driving licences, plastic cards, cheque books – to the relevant organisation. If you’re not sure which organisation to call, contact Action Fraud (0300 123 2040) for advice.
- Contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry line on 08457 740 740 if you suspect your mail is being stolen or that a mail redirection has been fraudulently set up on your address. The Royal Mail has an investigation unit that will be able to help you.
- Get a copy of your credit report. A credit report will show you any searches done by a lender, what date the search took place, what name and address it was done against and for what type of application. It will also show what credit accounts are set up in your name. You can contact any one of these credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit report problems caused by identity fraud: Callcredit • Equifax • Experian • ClearScore • Noddle.
- Look at your credit report closely. If you find entries from organisations you don’t normally deal with, contact them immediately. Remember to keep a record of all your actions, including the people you’ve spoken to and when, and keep copies of all letters you send and receive.
- Credit reference agencies will contact lenders on your behalf where fraudulent applications have been made or fraudulent credit accounts opened to restore your credit history to its former state.
If fraud has been committed, report it to Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040