Identity fraud, or ‘ID theft’, involves the use of a person’s stolen details to commit crime. Many victims never find out exactly how someone got hold of their details, and clearing things up afterwards can be costly and stressful.
Protect your address
If you start getting post for someone you don’t know, try to find out why.
Lenders use the electoral roll to check who’s registered as living at a particular address.
When registering to vote, tick the box to opt out of the ‘edited’ register. This will help prevent unsolicited marketing mail or junk mail. This doesn’t affect credit checks.
You can also:
- sign up to the Mail Preference Service to prevent marketing letters
- protect mail left in communal areas of residential properties
- redirect your mail when moving home
Protect your bank accounts
Be extremely wary of unsolicited phone calls, letters or emails from your bank or other financial institution asking you to confirm your:
- personal details
- security numbers
Regularly check your bank accounts and chase up any statements that you don’t get when you expect them.
Dispose of anything containing your personal or banking details by using a cross-cut shredder or tearing into small pieces.
When you receive your bank cards always sign up to either:
Do this even if you don’t want to use your cards online: it helps protect you if your card or details are lost or stolen.
If you think someone is misusing your bank account details, report it to your bank immediately.
Protect your phone
Never reply to unsolicited text messages, even to get them stopped. Simply delete them.
Sign up to the Telephone Preference Service to prevent marketing phone calls.
Install antivirus software on your phone.
Protect your computer
Keep your computer security programs, such as antivirus and firewall, up to date.
Make sure your web browser and operating system are the latest version. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask a computer specialist or someone you trust.
Be wary of clicking on links in unsolicited emails. They may contain viruses or other programs that can harm your computer.
If you’re making a financial transaction online, make sure you’re on a secure site. You can do this by looking at the address, as below.
Usually a website will start with ‘http’ but a secure site should start with ‘https’. For example, http://www.mybank.com is the address of Mybank, then if you want to go to the transactions page you have to log in.
At this point the address bar changes to something like https://mybank/login.com. A padlock icon will appear in either the bottom left or bottom right corner of your browser bar. The address bar may also change colour.
If you get an email claiming to be from your bank, asking that you contact them, ask yourself if it’s genuine. If you’re unsure, don’t click on any links in the email. Open another window in the browser and visit your bank’s website using your normal method.
Check your bank’s online banking security options. Some offer free antivirus and browser security software.
Visit Cyber Aware for step-by-step instructions on keeping your devices up to date with the latest security updates, and for other online security advice. You can also see the Cybercrime page for further information.
Protect your property
Property fraud is when a person pretends to be you and uses your stolen identity details to mortgage or even sell your land, house or business premises. Properties most at risk are those that are rented out, empty or mortgage-free.
Thankfully, this kind of fraud is rare, but if you’re a property owner it’s worth taking the simple steps below to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Undoing the damage after you’ve been a victim can be time-consuming, costly and stressful.
- register your land or property with the Land Registry
- keep your contact details up to date
- sign up to receive alerts if someone applies to change the register of your property
- put a restriction on your property so no activity will be allowed until a solicitor or conveyancer confirms it’s been made by you
For further advice and information on identity theft, you can go to:
Read the Little Book of Big Scams (below), produced by the Metropolitan Police, to find out more about fraud.