How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Fraud

By Kimberley Bailey
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Identity theft is on the rise and you do not want to fall victim to it. It's a load of hassle you really don't need.

It’s important to be aware of the dangers of identity theft and fraud, what makes you vulnerable to it and how to prevent yourself from being at risk.

What are the dangers of identity theft?

If someone has your personal information at their disposal then they’re able to commit many different types of fraud which could see you out of pocket, with huge debts, a bad credit rating, new accounts and contracts open in your name and so on. As a matter of a fact these fraudsters can almost commit any crime in your name and, well, that’s seriously dangerous.

How to spot identity theft

While you can't relentlessly be on the lookout for ID theft, there are some warning signs you can, and should be, aware of. Are there any anomalies on your credit or debit card statements? You should be checking your statements on a regular basis by the way, and if you notice any charges that you don't recognise then you should contact your card provider. Same goes if you receive any mystery statements from accounts you haven't opened (identity fraudsters have a penchant for opening up accounts in other people's names).

Are you being asked to cough up cash for debts you haven't run up? We live in a world where companies reach out to us all the time… “Are you a victim of mis-sold PPI?”, “Have you been a victim of an accident in the past 9 months?”... You know the drill… And so it can be quite easy to overlook financial correspondence which you don’t associate yourself with (and can easily be mistaken as junk mail), but if you're being asked for money that should be ringing alarm bells and you should investigate it.

Are you being rejected for a loan or card based on bad credit when, as far as you're aware, your credit score is all good? It could be that someone has been damaging your credit score by splashing your cash irresponsibly. Again, alarm bells should be deafening in this case and you should contact your bank or card credit card provider immediately. Keep your eyes peeled, check statements regularly and ultimately follow up on anything that doesn't sit right with you.

Who is vulnerable to identity theft?

The simple answer to that is... Everyone. And while you can’t completely, 100%, protect yourself from having your identity stolen there are ways to reduce the risk of it and make yourself less vulnerable to it, which leads me to the next section...

What can you do to limit your vulnerability to identity theft?

Nowadays it’s becoming more and more common for criminals to commit identity fraud online as increasingly we upload all of our personal information to sites in order to do things like online shopping, open social networking accounts and transfer money, but it’s important to remember that identity theft can still happen the old-fashioned way... So get into the habit of shredding, tearing up, or even burning any documents that contain sensitive and personal information like bank statements, bills, insurance forms etc.

Don’t give out your information (pins, passwords, account details etc.) over the phone or over email without being totally certain that the recipient of that information is legitimate and the person or business that they’re claiming to be.

Avoid opening e-mails from senders you don’t recognise as it could possibly be a phishing scam, and certainly don’t respond to e-mails with any of your personal information; once it’s out in cyberspace it’s pretty tricky to ensure you’ve got control over who has access to it.

Don’t give out information via social media. Sharing is caring and all that, but if someone hacks into your Facebook account for example, and finds your information sitting in a message to your BFF they’ll be able to do a lot more than “frape” you. 

Keep on top of your statements so that you’re aware of any suspicious outgoings or transactions as soon as possible. Spotting anything dodgy is better done sooner rather than later.

Make sure that your passwords are strong (for the love of god don’t use your birth date), ensure they’re different for each online account that you change them regularly. Unfortunately even if you take all measures to reduce the risk of identity theft it can still happen, but it’s still crucial that you make it as hard for potential fraudsters as possible!

Key takeaway

Things you can put into action: Check your statements regularly. Check any emails or conversations over social media that you think, after reading this, might make you vulnerable and delete them, or if you're nervous about it then give your bank a call and see if anything dodgy has gone down in your name. Change your passwords and make them stronger.

Be alert people, be alert.

 

 

By Kimberley Bailey


Kimberley is a freelance journalist investigating the world of personal finance for giffgaff Money, while exploring and trekking through Asia. She adores Prince, Louis Theroux and Persian rugs.

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