Identity fraud is where another person gains access to your finances by pretending to be you, or uses your personal information to set up fraudulent accounts in your name. The best way to avoid it is to prevent anyone getting hold of your personal or financial information.
- Always dispose carefully of credit and debit card receipts, old bank statements, Student Loans Company letters and other documents containing personal and financial information. Use a paper shredder before binning them.
- When using cashpoints or Chip & PIN machines, make sure no-one can see you entering your PIN.
- Check that a cashpoint hasn’t been tampered with before inserting your card. Thieves can attach a convincing-looking cover to ‘skim’ your card details and make a copy of your card.
- Read your bank and credit card statements every month and check for any transactions you don’t recognise.
- Never ever respond to ‘phishing’ emails. These are sent from email accounts pretending to be your bank, credit card company or Paypal asking you to ‘reconfirm’ your details by clicking a link. The link may lead to a surprisingly genuine-looking website but, if you enter your account and password details, these can then be used to steal money from your account.
- Use Royal Mail Recorded or Special Delivery for posting important documents (e.g. passports). These allow you to track and trace the parcel on the Royal Mail website.
- Make sure you can receive post securely, particularly if you live in a block of flats with a communal hallway. It’s possible to rent a secure Post Office Box from Royal Mail.
- Arrange to collect new bank cards and cheque books from your local bank branch rather than having them posted.
- If you’re moving house, arrange for all your mail to be forwarded to your new address to prevent any letters getting into the wrong hands.
- If you suspect that you may be a victim of identity fraud, you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately and report the matter to the police to get a crime reference number. For a small fee, you can check for anything unusual in your credit rating and a record of your financial information held with companies including Experian, Clearscore and Equifax.
You can also request that anyone applying for credit in your name is automatically double-checked by Cifas (for a small fee).
Identity theft is a serious crime, and victims often feel isolated. If you believe that you have been targeted, contact the police, your bank and your university who will guide you in what needs to be done and suggest counselling services you may wish to visit.