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TORRIDGE DISTRICT NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH FORUM
IDENTITY FRAUD AWARENESS
(Who can you trust? No one is the answer)
What is Identity Fraud?
Your identity is valuable to you as you need it to function in everyday life. You need evidence of who you are to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, finance, loans and mortgages, to obtain goods or services, or to claim benefits.
Your identity includes personal details, documents or records.
Name * Passport
Address * Driving Licence
Date of birth * Birth Certificates
Utility Bills * Bank Details
The starting point for most fraudsters is to gather information on their victim.
Criminals can steal your identity and use these details illegally to apply for products and facilities.
They may even attempt to ‘take over’ your own existing accounts.
This is known as identity fraud, and it can take a variety of forms.
If you have fallen victim, do not panic. It is unlikely you have been targeted personally and help and advice is available.
How can I avoid becoming a victim of Identity Fraud?
A fraudster finds ANY piece of information relating to their victim useful, and may use various tactics to get hold of it. Even the most mundane document or detail can help the fraudster assume an innocent person’s identity. By being careful with your personal information you can greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
Treat your personal details as ‘confidential’, and do not give them away easily or store them in a place where they can be easily compromised.
Be cautious if you are contacted by telephone, fax, post, email, or in person and asked for details such as your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, PIN number or security password. Your bank will never contact you to verify your details in this way. Insist that you will ring back any suspicious callers and verify that they are genuine. Always leave at least five minutes and if possible use a different phone before phoning back.
Avoid using your mother’s maiden name as a security password because it can be easily discovered. Use different passwords for different accounts where possible.
Destroy any documents showing your name, address or other details before throwing them away, especially bank statements, utility bills, credit and debit card receipts, pre-filled application forms and junk mail. Cross shred it for peace of mind.
When paying by plastic card, do not let it out of your sight. Your account details could be copied (‘cloned or skimmed’) from the magnetic strip on the card and re-used without your knowledge.
Check your bank/credit card statements promptly and report any transactions you don’t recognise to your card issuer, even if they are for small amounts.
Make sure you formally close any accounts you no longer require. A fraudster could reactivate mail order or credit card accounts you’ve not used for a while, especially if they are registered to an old address.
Keep personal documents such as your driving licence, passport, birth and marriage certificates in a safe place.
Avoid signing up for junk mail – this may result in pre-filled application forms being sent to an address long after you’ve moved out. Contact the Mailing Preference Service and/or the Telephone Preference Service for more details.
If you move home, inform all the relevant organisations of your change of address immediately to make sure all your accounts move with you.
What are the warning signs?
A number of indicators may suggest that your identity details have been misused.
You receive bills, invoices, or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven’t ordered, or letters to you from solicitors or debt collection agencies relating to debts that aren’t yours.
You receive letters relating to applications for accounts, goods or services you haven’t made, or statements that you do not recognise.
There are transactions on your bank or credit card account that you do not recognise.
Important personal documents, such as your passport, driving licence, utility bills or bank statements, have gone missing or stolen.
There are new accounts appearing on your credit file that you do not recognise, or searches appearing on your credit file that don’t relate to an application made by you.
Your regular bills and statements do not arrive. A missing bill could mean a fraudster has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address. If you suspect this, contact the organisation concerned.
You receive no post at all. A common tactic is for fraudsters to re-direct a victims post to another address. Contact the Royal Mail if you have any suspicions.
You apply for financial products such as credit cards, loans or mortgages and are unexpectedly rejected, or you apply for welfare benefits and are told you are already claiming when you are not.
You think you have been a victim of Identity Theft then you should do the following.
If you think that someone has used your name or personal details to obtain cred or a loan, you should take the following action:
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft which has involved the use of plastic cards, (such as credit or debit cards), online banking, or cheques, you should report this to the financial institution concerned. They will take responsibility for looking into the matter, and as appropriate, reporting cases of criminal activity to the police where they will be recorded and subsequent investigation considered. It should be noted that this process is applicable to England, Wales and Northern Ireland only. Where the incident has not involved the use of plastic cards, online banking or cheques, then you should report the matter to the relevant organisation in the first instance and depending on their advice, to your local police.
Request a copy of your credit report to ensure that it contains no unfamiliar transactions.
Contact the appropriate creditors, banks, phone companies or utility companies and ask them to freeze the fraudulent accounts. You may be liable for only £50 of the money taken fraudulently, but different organisations have different policies. If the theft involves a credit or debit card, most creditors promptly issue replacement cards with new account numbers.
Make secure arrangements to receive your mail.
In order to put matters right, you will have to make telephone calls and write emails or letters. Make sure that you keep a record of all these communications. Send letters by recorded or special delivery and keep track of how much time you spend dealing with the problem.
Beware of companies who offer to ‘repair’ your credit file for a fee. They may charge you for services or documents that you could easily obtain for less (or for free) yourself.
Consider closing your existing accounts, destroying all cheques and cards, and open new ones.
Consider taking out CIFAS Protective Registration. This will flag to potential lenders that you have been a victim of identity fraud. Greater security measures will therefore be taken to ensure that any further application is genuine.