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About Identity Theft and Identity Fraud


Identity Theft in Progress

Identity theft (ID theft) and identity fraud (ID fraud) could happen to anyone.  Chances are, if you haven't already been a victim someone close to you probably has.


What Is the Difference Between Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?

Identity theft occurs when an identity thief steals your personal information with the purpose of committing identity fraud.  The thief commits identity fraud by using your personal details to acquire documents in your name, such as passports and driving licenses, or by applying for financial products such as loans, credit cards, mortgages or even state benefits.  The personal information they collect and the documents they acquire can also be used to target your existing accounts.

According to the latest figures from the Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC), which was set up by the Home Office in 2003 to help prevent identity theft and fraud, the annual cost of identity theft crime to the UK economy is £1.2 billion. This fact alone has brought identity theft prevention into the spotlight, and made identity protection an important issue for consumers, businesses and the government alike.

The common conception of identity thieves is that they wait until you leave the house, and then start going through your rubbish bins looking for discarded bank statements or utility bills.  The reality however, is that identity theft scams are much more sophisticated than that.  Not only do they infiltrate the very organisations that use your personal information on a daily basis, but they also setup bogus companies to collect it over the phone or the internet.

Although most lenders will repay any money taken as a result of identity fraud, the time taken, and the inconvenience and stress caused can be immense.  The sooner you find out that you've been a victim, the less damage will be done and the quicker it will be to sort out.


How Do You Know When You've Become An Identity Theft Victim?

The first time most people realise they've become a victim of idenity theft identity fraud is when they find themselves being chased for credit they've never received, or being declined for credit when they've previously had a good credit history.  However, there are tell-tale signs that can be spotted earlier if you know where to look. The easiest way to spot identity fraud early is by checking your credit report on a regular basis.  The things to look out for include:

  • - Entries on your credit report that you don't recognise.

  • - Credit searches made by companies that you haven't given permission.

  • - Credit applications that you haven't made.

  • - Linked addresses that you don't recognise.

You can order a free credit report online instantly from Experian, Equifax or CallCredit.  Use our Credit Report Comparison to find out which one is best, or click on the buttons to order now:

free_experian_credit_report
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free_callcredit_credit_repo

If you notice any of the above on your credit file, you should report identity theft to the relevant credit reference agency immediately.  Their Victims of Fraud teams should be able to help you investigate.  All three credit report companies also offer credit report monitoring services to notify you of changes to your credit file.

Other signs that potential identity theft victims should look out for include:

  • - Monthly statements or other post not arriving as expected.

  • - Bank or credit card statements showing unusual transactions.

  • - Letters or phone calls advising you that you've been declined for credit you've not applied for.

  • - Important documents such as your passport or driving license being lost or stolen.

  • - Applying for a state benefit only to be told you are already claiming it.


How Can You Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft or Identity Fraud?

An increasing number of people are spending a fortune each year on expensive identity theft protection policies.  But with a bit of common sense, identity theft insurance shouldn't be required as protecting yourself can be quite simple to achieve.  Follow our Top 10 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft to find out how:

  1. Never throw away any documents containing your personal or account information.  Use a shredder whenever possible.

  2. Check your bank and credit card statements as soon as they arrive to make sure there are no unfamiliar transactions.  Let your bank or credit card company know immediately if you notice anything strange.

  3. Have your post forwarded as soon as you move to a new address and let the Post Office know immediately if you stop receiving any.

  4. Register on the voters roll at your current address.  To find out how to register, please click here.

  5. Don't carry personal documents such as your driving license or passport around with you unless you really need to.  Keep them somewhere safe and secure at home whenever possible.

  6. Notify the relevant organisation immediately after the loss or theft of identity or personal documents.

  7. Never share sensitive information such as PIN numbers, bank account details or passwords with anyone unless you are entirely confident you know who you are dealing with.  Be especially vigilant when receiving unexpected phone calls, e-mails or market research questionnaires.

  8. Never give your personal or account information to websites you don't trust.

  9. Protect your computer from spyware and viruses using anti-virus software designed to reduce the chances of online identity theft.

  10. Check your credit report regularly, or even better, sign up for one of the Credit Report Monitoring Services provided by Experian, Equifax or Call Credit.

 
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Comments 

 
#1 Jamie Lee Venables 2012-05-23 12:09
Recently check my credit score with Experian and it is 973 out of 999 (excellent), unfortunately the majority of companies apply for credit checks through Equifax whereby my credit score is 404 out of 900!

Note:
Both companies still need to update their system to show I am on the electoral roll (I have informed them by giving the reference number which Shropshire Council gave me!)

Equifax however places a HUGE emphasis on the FACT I do not have 'any' outstanding credit accounts.

Do anyone else have similar issues or know of a way to correct this, but do not say ask the credit agency (they are useless!)
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