Identity Crime

Identity crimes are the fastest growing type of crime in the UK and can be very difficult to recover from. Prevention is by far the best option.

CIFAS The Uk’s Fraud Prevention Service identify three types of identity crime:

  • Identity Theft – (aka impersonation fraud): when a criminal uses the details of a genuine victim to impersonate them and open new accounts.
  • Identity Fraud – where a criminal ‘makes up’ an identity – often involving forged documents – in order to get products or services.
  • Facility (or Account) Takeover Fraud – where the fraudster has enough details (like passwords) to bypass security on your existing accounts and take over the running of them.

In order to avoid becoming a victim of an identity crime you must understand the risks and mechanisms which allow criminals to pass themselves off as you or gain access to your accounts.

Primary mechanisms include:

  • Unwittingly giving your personal information to a criminal. This may happen through a bogus phone call or text, via an email or through spoofed websites or an unguarded phone conversation in a public place.
  • Through insecure disposal, loss or theft of personal documents such as bank statements, bills, your passport, driving licence etc.
  • Through criminals using card skimming machines on automated telling machines or simply shoulder surfing while you are entering personal information into banking machines, computers or filling out forms.
  • Through sharing information with family or friends who perhaps are less careful with your information than you might wish.

Get Safe Online provide a helpful set of advice broken down into Symptoms, Prevention and What to do if you do become a victim of identity crime:

The Symptoms

  • Not receiving bills or other correspondence – suggesting that a criminal has given a different address in place of your own.
  • Receiving credit cards which you did not apply for.
  • Denial of credit for no apparent reason.
  • Receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about things you have not bought.
  • Unrecognisable entries on your credit history.
  • You have recently lost or had stolen important documents such as your passport or driving licence.
  • When buying or selling, you get complaints about non-delivery of or non-payment for goods you are not aware of.
  • You see entries on your bank, credit or store card statement for goods you did not order.
  • You cannot log into a site using your normal password (because a criminal has logged in as you and changed it).

Prevention

  • Do not share account information with friends, family or other people.
  • Ensure you always have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software running.
  • If possible, arrange for paperless bills and statements.
  • File sensitive documents securely, and shred those you no longer need – preferably with a cross-cut shredder.
  • Never divulge private information data in response to an email, text, letter or phone call unless you are certain that the request is from a bona fide source.
  • Always beware of people looking over your shoulder when you are entering private information on a computer, smartphone/tablet orATM.

What to do if your Identity has been stolen

  • Act promptly in order to minimise the impact of the theft.
  • Contact any affected websites and advise them about the problem.
  • If you can, log in and change your password immediately using a strong password.
  • If you are unable to log in, contact the website’s technical support department immediately for further advice.
  • Ask your bank, building society or credit card company for advice (for example, on freezing accounts and getting new cards, passwords and PINs). Most will refund the full amount lost providing you were not negligent in some way.
  • Change your password on other websites in case they have also been compromised.
  • If website access requires a secret question, change it if you can to avoid repeat incidents.
  • Check your other personal information, such as addresses, to make sure it is still correct.
  • Check for other transactions, items for sale or items purchased in your name which you have not originated, and cancel them.
  • Report all lost or stolen documents (passports, driving licences, credit cards, chequebooks, etc) as soon as possible to the relevant issuing authorities.
  • Do not continue to use a compromised PIN.
  • Check with credit reference agencies for any unusual entries, and for advice. For example, Experian offers an inexpensive monitoring service of which details can be found at www.experian.co.uk/consumer/credit-expert-credit-monitoring.html 
  • Notify the Royal Mail if you suspect mail theft or that a mail redirection has been fraudulently set up on your address.
  • Consider registering with the CIFAS Protective Registration Service.

In addition to those mentioned above, there are a range of organisations that provide advice and assist victims. A list of these organisations are provided via the left hand menu.

See Also