How to minimise the risks from identity theft

By: Asingleton

Most people in the UK are now aware of the serious threat of identity theft and the dire consequences. This happens when criminals get access to enough of someone else’s personal information to assume their identity. The effects of identity theft can be severe; the victim’s credit status will be affected, and it will take weeks or maybe even months for it to be restored to its original status. In the meantime the victim will encounter extreme difficulties getting loans or any form of credit until the matter is resolved and the credit status restored.

The two most common methods of identity theft involve criminals intercepting documents that contain financial and other details from the post, or by contacting the victim and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation in an effort to solicit sensitive information. Obviously, a criminal who manages to achieve both of these with one victim will score the jackpot. A third method which is rising in popularity is to hack into someone’s computer and use specialist software to steal enough information for the criminal to pass himself off as the victim.

Therefore it is essential to keep all personal information secure; your identity and information are valuable assets. Make sure that all your sensitive documents like passports and driving licences are securely stored. Be especially careful if you live in an environment, such as shared accommodation, where other people can have access to your mail. In these cases arrange to pick up items such as credit cards and chequebooks directly from your bank.

Always keep your bank card PIN and internet banking passwords safe. Never give any sensitive information to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly, even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. If they are genuine they will let you call them back. Banks never ask for passwords, PINs or entire security passwords over the phone. Remember to mix up your passwords and don’t use the same one for everything. If you receive an email purporting to be from your bank that asks you to input all your personal details – don’t do it - because it's not genuine.

Invest in a shredder and make sure that you destroy all financial statements, receipts, utility bills and, just to be on the safe side, anything with your name and address on it that could be used by an unscrupulous individual to prove that your identity is theirs.

Finally, you should regularly check your credit report. This contains information about your credit dealings and you will be able to see if anything is amiss with your record. By regularly checking your record you will be alerted to any suspicious activity, hopefully in time to prevent severe loss.

Although there are no guarantees that you will never be the victim of identity theft you will make it much harder for any potential fraudster by ensuring that you follow the simple guidelines outlined above. Remember, it can take months to recover from the consequences of ID fraud, so do all you can to ensure that you don’t put yourself in harm’s way.

Identity Theft
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