Every year thousands of people are victims of identity theft or fraud. Estimates vary widely, but it’s reckoned that the UK is a hotspot for identity related theft and crime. But whatever the statistics say, what should you do if you think someone has stolen your personal details (identity theft) or used them to open accounts in your name (identity fraud)?
1. Contact your bank, building society or credit card provider as soon as you can.
This should be your first step if the fraud involves online banking, cheques, credit or debit cards. If you think fraudsters may have accessed information via another account, contact that organisation.
SAVVY TIP: You may be advised to contact the police as well (up until April 1st, but after that the rules change and Action Fraud will handle fraud cases). If you don’t know who you should contact, get in touch with Action Fraud or ring them on 0300 123 2040. There’s also a page on Action Fraud’s website that deals with online scams and viruses.
2. Get a copy of your credit report
This will show whether the fraudsters have tried to open accounts in your name. There are three credit reference agencies, Call Credit, Equifax and Experian. James Jones of Experian says that you don’t have to contact all three agencies. “If, for example, you got in touch with us and asked if you could speak to our ‘victims of fraud’ team, they will contact the other two credit reference agencies on your behalf.”
SAVVY TIP: If you’ve never got hold of a copy of your credit record, it’s worth doing from time to time. You have the right, by law, to see a copy of your file by paying each credit reference agency £2. You can do this online or by post. Noddle, which is a service provided by Call Credit, lets you subscribe and see your file completely free of charge. Full disclosure: I write an editorially independent newsletter for Noddle, but I’m not paid to promote their service.
3. The ‘victims of fraud’ team will go through your credit report with you.
If you find that the fraudster has opened accounts in your name, the team will get in touch with these companies on your behalf (it’s called ‘raising a dispute’) and this information on your credit file will be marked as disputed.
SAVVY TIP: You may still be asked to confirm or provide certain information, especially around verifying your signature, for example.
4. You will be advised about how to increase the security through your credit report.
For example, for £20 a year, you can sign up to CIFAS protective registration. This puts a protective ‘flag’ against your name on a credit report and tells prospective lenders that they should carry out extra checks before giving you credit — to stop them inadvertently giving credit to fraudsters. Around 270 companies have signed up to CIFAS.
SAVVY TIP: Some financial companies haven’t signed up to CIFAS, and James Jones of Experian says that for someone who was really worried about a fraudster taking out more credit in their name, they could also add a note to their credit file. “You could add a short statement saying that you’d like a prospective lender to ask anyone applying for credit in your name to answer a specific question or to give a specific password. Obviously, this slows down the credit application process considerably, so it’s not something we’d recommend on a routine basis.”
5. Contact Royal Mail if you think your post has been stolen. It’s also worth doing if you suspect that fraudsters have set up a false address to redirect your mail to. You can ring their customer enquiry line on 03457 740 740. Royal Mail has information about ID fraud on its website.
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