Identity Theft


I don’t think there’s much that’s more terrifying than the thought of having your entire identity stolen. But ID fraud is a growing problem and fraudsters have many methods of getting hold of victims’ details and documents.
So let’s take a look at some of the most common methods used.

Wallet stealing
Perhaps the most obvious method is simply the theft of your wallet. Pickpockets are well-known for their crafty ability to steal your wallet without you even realising.

Many of us cram a lot into our wallets, from bank cards to our driving licence (stating our address), to membership cards. All of this is highly valuable to fraudsters and it won’t take long for a fraudster to use it to his/her advantage.

The same goes for anyone who uses an iPhone or a Smartphone to access their email or keeps personal information on there. Protect it with a pin or password, so that if it's stolen, your identity won't be.

Card skimming
Whenever you use an ATM (automatic teller machine) you should keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious on the machine – has anything been added or changed?
Fraudsters often attach a false front to the card reader (where you insert your card) and this will capture your card number and transmit it wirelessly to the fraudster who will be waiting nearby.
A hidden camera will also be attached to the machine which will capture your PIN as you enter it. This will enable the fraudster to make a copy of your card and use it, along with the PIN, to withdraw funds.
However, this doesn't just happen at ATMs. Some fraudsters also fix cameras and skimmers to card readers in petrol stations. So again, keep an eye out for anything that looks slightly dodgy.
It can also happen if you hand over your card to a shop assistant or waiter and you let your card out of your sight. Your personal details may then be sold on to a criminal gang.

Social networking
Thanks to the rising popularity of social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, criminals have even more ways to get hold of your identity and scam you.
Many people put a lot of personal information on these sites, including their full date of birth, where they live, their phone number, and their employer.
Quite often they will also state when they are off on holiday or away from home.
Criminals can use this information to firstly steal your identity and take out financial products in your name, and secondly, to burgle your home – after all, if you’re telling criminals you’re out of the country and your address is clearly on the website, you're effectively inviting them in.

Bin raiding
It’s pretty easy to simply bin certain documents without thinking about it. In fact, according to a survey by Fellowes for National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, 79% of household waste contains at least one or more items which could assist fraudsters in stealing an identity.
Fraudsters pay people to go through bins, looking for bank statements, credit card statements, and other information such as phone and utility bills and insurance documents. All of this provides fraudsters with valuable information to steal your identity.

Mail forwarding
If you’re moving home, watch out! If you don’t redirect your post, criminals can easily pick up valuable information about you if important post is delivered to an old address. This is particularly the case if you had a shared entrance at your previous home.

Identity theft of the deceased
This is pretty morbid but fraudsters even go so far as stealing the identity of the deceased. Fairly recently, a criminal gang was arrested for stealing the identity of a baby that had died 16 years ago, with his birth certificate being used to defraud more than £20,000.
It’s not difficult for criminals to use the names of the deceased to open credit cards and other financial accounts, so you need be extra vigilant when dealing with the death of family members and friends.

Email phishing
This is when you receive a fake email from a website you use on a regular basis, such as ebay or your bank, asking you to reset or confirm your security details, often by following a link.
However, clicking on this link will take you to a fake website with the aim of getting hold of your personal and financial details to defraud you.

How to avoid being a victim
So now you know the main ways fraudsters target you, here are eight ways to protect yourself:

1 Shred everything
Make sure you shred all documents that show your name and address. This includes bank statements, letters from your doctor and utility bills. It’s also a good idea to shred receipts.

2 Don’t let your cards out of your sight
When paying in a shop or restaurant, don’t let your credit card or debit card be taken out of sight.

3 Shield your PIN
Always cover your PIN when entering it into a card reader in a shop or at an ATM. That way you’ll shield it from prying eyes and hidden cameras.

4 Don’t put too much in your wallet
Only put what you really need in your wallet. Try to avoid carrying around too many cards (perhaps put one or two in a pocket instead) and make sure you don’t have your address in your wallet.
Londoners with Oyster cards should get them registered immediately. If a registered Oyster card is stolen, you can claim a refund and get it replaced free of charge.

5 Be careful when social networking
If you do use social networking sites, make sure your privacy settings are as high as possible and limit the information you publish on these sites. Avoid publishing your address, phone number and full date of birth and don’t advertise when you’re off on holiday.

6 Watch out for phishing emails
If you receive any suspicious looking emails, don’t click on any links and make sure you delete the email immediately. It’s important to remember that your bank will never ask you for your personal details so don’t hand them out.

7 Redirect your post
Always ensure you ask the Post Office to redirect your post if you’re moving home – preferably for up to a year. You should also update all your banks and utility firms with your new address immediately.

8 Check your bank statements
Finally, always keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements to see whether any unusual transactions have been carried out. And tell your bank immediately if you spot anything suspicious. A really easy way to keep an eye on your transactions is with the online banking tool which amalgamates information from all your different providers, allowing you to see all your different statements at a single glance, with a single log-in. (You can also categorise all your transactions, so you'll know immediately if some of your spending seems out of place.)



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