This is commonly referred to as ‘identity theft’ and often leads to ‘identity fraud’, which is when criminals use stolen identities to obtain goods and services dishonestly.
This can involve taking out loans, claiming state benefits, opening a new bank account, taking control of an active current account, registering for credit cards, and signing up to contracts for items such as mobile phones. They can even obtain a new passport or driving licence using a victim’s identity.
Identity fraud victims can lose a lot of money and have their credit history negatively affected, which can also have an impact on their future finances. With this in mind, the best thing you can do to stop the fraudsters in their tracks is keep your personal details secure...
Dos and don’ts – protecting your identity
1) Install the latest antivirus software on your devices and regularly check for updates (even when you have selected an ‘automatic update’ option).
2) Shred any receipts, bills and delivery labels that display your personal information.
3) Regularly check your credit report for entries you don't recognise. You can get your credit report from one of the three credit reference agencies: Noddle, Equifax and Experian.
4) Take action if you receive bills or receipts for purchases you haven’t made or any notifications relating to financial activity you haven’t authorised. Call your bank immediately if there is unusual activity you can’t account for on your statement.
5) Cancel your debit/credit cards as soon as possible if they are lost or stolen. Keep your bank/credit card company emergency contact numbers stored in your phone and written down at home.
6) Use different passwords for every online account you have. Strong, unique passwords increase your security by making it more difficult for a fraudster to guess a password in the first place. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords regularly. Use a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and special characters, and make your password a minimum of 8 characters. Avoid easily guessable passwords – for example, single dictionary words or passwords based on something people can find out about you. Try using a sentence that is hard to guess but easy to remember. And remember, if you think someone may know your password, change it immediately.
7) End any phone calls where you’re worried that the caller might not be who they say they are. If the call is allegedly from your bank and you want to check, wait for a few minutes and call a central number from a different phone. Make sure there is a dialling tone first.
1) Share your personal information (name, home address, bank details, email address or phone number) with any organisation or individual before you know if they’re trustworthy. Make sure you only enter credit or debit card details on secure websites – look out for the padlock symbol or a URL starting with https.
2) Trust emails if you’re not sure of the sender or the email address it has come from. Phishing emails are designed to obtain your personal information and can look genuine, with many imitating bank and building society communications. Find the phone number for the company, bank or building society online or from an official letter you have on file and call them to check.
3) Reveal full passwords, login details or account numbers for your bank account to anyone. If speaking to your bank or building society, an official representative will never ask for your PIN or for a whole security number or password. If someone does ask for this information, don’t give it to them!
For more information about identity theft and fraud, and to get news on the latest scams you need to be aware of, visit Action Fraud.
At Police Mutual, everything we do is for the benefit of our members and the Police Service. That’s why we promise to be open and honest with you about how your data is used, so that you know you can trust us with your personal information. We promise to never sell your information and will only ever use it to contact you about the products you hold with us, special offers, prize draws and important updates you have chosen to hear about from us.
Article published on 12 February 2018
James Heaney is a Marketing Manager in the Brand team, responsible for PR and advertising. He is based at the Lichfield office, and likes skiing and writing for children in his spare time.Read more of James's articles