This week we’re tackling scams ahead of Thursday’s #TakeFiveDay. Today we’re looking at fraudsters who pretend to be you so they can try to get credit in your name.
Take Five is a new awareness campaign led by Financial Fraud Action UK, urging you to stop and consider whether the situation is genuine.
If someone does manage to steal your identity they could open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or loans, take out mobile phone contracts or buy things in your name.
They could even apply for passports or driving licences, potentially doing even more damage to your finances and your credit rating.
How to avoid it
You wouldn’t go around telling people your passwords, but you might be unwittingly sharing information that could help scammers hack your accounts.
Last year fraud prevention service Cifas found identity theft was up by 57%, with social media a ‘hunting ground’ for thieves keen to steal personal information about you.
Don’t publish your date of birth, maiden name or other pieces of personal information online where anyone can see them.
You should also have different passwords for all your online accounts to make it harder for scammers to break into more than one account.
Make sure you have up-to-date virus protection on your computer and avoid clicking on any suspicious links.
And it’s not just online where your data could be at risk.
You should shred any letters from banks or bills you receive. And if you move home, get Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year, giving you time to get the address changed.
Watch out too for phone calls in which you’re asked for personal information. Banks won’t ask you for your whole password or your PIN.
How to check if someone has stolen your identity
If you follow the above, you will hopefully be safe. But identity fraud could still happen – or may have already happened.
First, keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements to see if there is any spending you don’t recognise. You should also read any letters than come from banks in case they’re warning you of potential fraud.
To get a better sense of whether products are being taken out in your name, you should be checking your credit reports.
These are detailed listings of every form of credit in your name. So if someone has got a credit card, loan or other product by pretending to be you, it should show up. You’ll also be able to see if any addresses are linked to you which you’ve never lived at.
There are three different credit reference agencies and there are ways you can check them all for free, or pay £2 to get a report direct.
What do to if your identity has been stolen
If you find your identity has been stolen you should immediately contact the credit provider to find out more. Hopefully you can do this before any money is taken.
If the money has been stolen from your own bank or credit card you should be able to get most if not all of the money back. However, in all cases the bank will assess whether you’ve been negligent - but they need to prove this has been the case. If they find you were, then you might be liable for the losses.
After your bank has investigated the fraud it will report the scam to the police. You can also contact Action Fraud for advice on what to do.
Get the credit reference agencies to fix any entries which weren’t down to you.
You can also register your details with Cifas, who will put a flag by your name for any future credit applications. Though this will slow down future applications you make, it’ll also prevent fraudsters further damaging your credit rating.
On Thursday morning, head to your bank for #TakeFiveDay to get more information on how to avoid financial fraud.