Take Action Against Identity Fraud

Identity theft is rampant in the U.K. and is increasing every year. In fact, Britons are at greater risk of identity theft than residents of any other nation in Europe. About one of every four U.K. residents has been a victim of identity fraud versus an average of 17 percent throughout all of Europe. One of the reasons for the pervasiveness of identity theft is that it’s a relatively easy crime to commit. All the thieves need to obtain is your name, address and date of birth, information they can get by simply rifling your trash (one of the reasons you should be sure to use a shredder on all important documents). They can also access that information through something as simple a phony email from your bank, a scam which has gotten a lot of traction in the U.K. in recent years. The results can be costly: victims of identity theft can lose money, have their credit destroyed and find it harder to apply for a mortgage or car loan.

The Need for Swift Action
If you are a victim of identity theft, you need to take immediate action to reduce your financial exposure. For example, you can cancel your credit cards, report the crime to the police, or contact CIFAS (the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration.
But you can’t take action until you know that identity theft has occurred, so it’s important to recognise the warning signs. Here are 10 warning signs that you could be a victim of identity fraud.

1. Mistakes on bank or credit card statements: You should carefully review these statements every month looking for any unusual or unexpected transactions, like purchases you didn’t make.

2. Credit report mistakes: You should regularly request copies of your credit report. Look for new accounts which have been opened without your permission.

3. Your bank notifies you: Banks are responsible for protecting your personal data and will generally notify you of any suspicious withdrawals. Take the time to review any flagged transactions with your bank. In the U.K., Payment Services Regulations require banks to restore stolen money to your account unless they can prove you were negligent.

4. You get calls from debt collectors: If you’re delinquent in paying debts, debt collector calls are not necessarily a concern. If you’re not, this could be a sign that someone has incurred debts in your name.

5. You’ve lost important documents: If you lose your passport or driving licence, or if either of them have been stolen, you’re at risk of identity theft. Report any lost documents immediately to the police and to CIFAS.

6. Someone has applied for state benefits in your name: If you apply for benefits like disability or income support and learn that someone has already applied for that benefit in your name, it’s a sign that your personal information has probably been stolen.

7. Your credit score is strong but you can’t get a loan or credit card: You should check your credit score from time to time. If you have a good credit score but can’t get credit, chances are an identity theft has damaged your credit.

8. You don’t receive mail you should: If one of your monthly bank statements or utility bills is missing, it could mean someone has obtained your address and changed it to collect your personal information.

9. You receive mail you shouldn’t: You might receive credit cards you never applied for, or a notification from the post office that your mail is being forwarded. These are strong indications your identity has been compromised.

10. You receive bills for items you didn’t buy: If you get bills for furniture, appliances, or clothing you didn’t purchase, or for services you never used, you’ll know that someone has obtained and used your information to pay for these.

Identity fraud is a serious problem in the U.K., one that costs victims on average £1,076. Identity thieves can steal your money, damage your credit and set up phony accounts in your name. Your best protection is to remain vigilant and shred any document with personal details, look for the signs that a thief has obtained your personal information and take swift action to limit any losses.