Some surveys indicate that as many as six million Britons have been victims, although the government estimates that the crime affects closer to 120,000 people each year. Either way it’s one of the fastest-growing crimes of the 21st century.
These tips could help to protect you:
1. Shred sensitive information. Shred financial statements, offers of loans and credit cards, catalogue account details or anything else that could be used to impersonate you before binning them. Thieves go through rubbish to see if there is anything useful – a practice known as bin raiding.
2.Check your statements carefully. Go through your credit card and bank statements every month. Unexpected entries can be the first indication that somebody is stealing your money.
3.Learn to love your credit report. Your credit report is such an effective tool in the fight against ID fraud that the government recommends regular checks to protect yourself.
4.Limit your social networking. It’s tempting to include basic information such as your full name and date of birth in your profile, then add interesting details such as your pets’ or children’s names and nicknames. Don’t – these are the kind of detail that you probably use for passwords and PINs, so leave them out. Your cyber-friends might be fraudsters looking for enough data to steal your ID.
5.Don’t risk important documents. Don’t carry your passport, driving licence or even credit cards unless you know you’ll need them and never write down your PINs and passwords. If your bag or wallet is stolen, you could be handing the thieves your identity as well as your cash.
6.Report thefts. Always tell the police, your bank, credit card issuers and anybody else who might be affected if you suffer a theft. That way, your loss is on the record and organisations who might be approached by the thieves will be forewarned.
7.Keep an eye on your post. If mail goes missing, tell the Post Office immediately – someone may be intercepting it, especially if you live in a building with a communal hall where mail is delivered. Be especially careful when you move house and use the Royal Mail’s Redirection Service to forward your post to your new address for at least a year.
8.Register to vote at your current address. Lenders use the electoral roll to check that you live where you say you do. If you’re not registered, a criminal could register you at another address. When you move home, always deregister at your old address and re-register at the new one. That way, the people who move into your previous home can’t offer apparent proof that they are you.
9.Don’t respond to cold calls and e-mails. Never reply to e-mails and cold-callers asking for details such as PINs, passwords and account numbers – and don’t fill in your details on any unfamiliar e-mail or website. Telephone the organisation that is allegedly behind the approach, using the number in the phone book or in previous correspondence – and warn them what is happening.
10.Keep on checking your credit report. You need to check your credit report regularly, because ID thieves could target you at any time
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