What to do if your identity has been stolen

By Kim Bailey
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Unfortunately identity theft is slightly more serious than someone dressing up in your clothes and pretending to be you.

Identity theft is a serious crime and it occurs when someone steals your personal information and with this is able to access your account and spend your money, open accounts, apply for credit cards, and so on. This can result in running up huge debts and screwing up your credit. A lot of banks and credit card companies have things in place to prevent this happening but people can still be unlucky. A lot of people. According to recent figures more than 148,000 people were victims of identity theft in the UK last year.

Here are 5 things you should do immediately, once you realise you’ve been the victim of identity theft...

Fraud alert

Set up a Fraud Alert on your credit reports. Get in touch with a credit reporting agency (Experian is the biggest one in the UK) and tell them you suspect your identity has been stolen. This puts a red flag on your accounts and stops the fraudsters from opening more in your name. The company you contact will inform other credit reporting companies too. How nice.

Freeze credit reports

Ask the agency to put a freeze on all of your credit reports so that creditors won’t have access to them.

Side note: It’s important to keep a record of any communication you have concerning your identity theft claim and keep hold of any copies of any documents they send you. You may also want to ask for a copy of your credit file so you can see if you can spot anything suspicious.

Report it to the police

It sounds obvious, and that’s because it is, but you should inform the police that you believe your identity has been stolen and obtain an incident number and police report. It is a crime, after all. If you think that your identity was stolen because an important and personal item was pinched or lost (like your passport or bank card) then report that too (that might go without saying).

Inform your creditors

Like banks, shops you have store cards with, credit card companies etc. (anyone you have any kind of account with basically) that you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft. Even if certain accounts haven’t been affected (yet). The creditors will then be able to monitor your accounts.

Contact CIFAS

(The Fraud Prevention Service in the UK) and apply for Protective Registration. These guys will keep a close eye on any applications made in your name or using your address. These applications can be anything from loans to mortgages. It’s another way to prevent (more) fraud taking place with your identity.

More and more identity theft is happening online as we take to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and to performing transactions via the internet, so once you’ve taken steps to minimise the damage of identity theft it’s crucial that you check all of your online accounts, see if there has been any suspicious activity or log-ins, and change all passwords. Identity theft can happen to the same person more than once, folks!

Top takeaway

Having your identity stolen can cause a lot of unwanted distress and aggravation. So if it does happen to you, it’s important that you take steps to ensure that minimal amount of damage is caused. Otherwise with the potential effects on your credit history, it can not only have short term aggravation but also long term damage.

 

By Kim 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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