Take steps to protect yourself against identity theft
|Published: 2nd March 2009 14:50|
Identity Theft Advice and Information
The two types of identity theft
Identity theft happens when someone has enough information about you to pose as you.
Thieves can use that in a couple of different ways. There's the "account takeover," where a criminal will simply use your existing bank account and credit card, running up large bills. Then there's "application fraud," where a thief takes your information and opens new accounts in your name. This can take longer to detect, because the address given to companies probably won't be your real one.
What you can to do to prevent identity theft
Make a list of all your credit and debit cards, including their contact telephone numbers, and keep it in a safe place. Never carry more than two credit cards and a debit card with you, in case of theft. Whenever you use an ATM, use your hand to shield your PIN number. Below are some other things you should consider:
- Get your credit report at least once a year, and study it carefully. If there's any suspicious activity, report it immediately. Review your bank and credit card statements monthly.
- When you're using your card in a shop, watch as it's swiped, to ensure the clerk doesn't try to also run it through a "skimmer" that stores your information. Always take the receipt with you - don't throw it into the rubbish!
- Buy a shredder. It's a perfect, secure way to dispose of those credit card receipts and financial junk mail. If you're expecting a card in the post and it doesn't arrive in a reasonable amount of time, contact the organisation.
- If someone calls claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, never give out any personal information on the phone. Only do that if you initiated the call, and you're certain that the person you're talking to is a legitimate employee of the company. Take nothing on trust.
- The same applies on the online world. If you get an e-mail asking you to verify your information, don't click on the link. Instead, open your web browser and type in the proper address of the company (a search engine can find it for you). It might take longer, but it's a lot safer.
- Make sure your computer has good anti-virus and firewall programmes to prevent hacking or spyware. Run a scan at least once a week.
- Don't use the same password for everything. Make them a mix of letters and numbers, and keep them memorised.
- Store documents containing personal details in a safe place, such as your passport, bank statements, driving licence etc. If you have to post personal documents, ask the post office for advice on the most secure method.
- If you move house, redirect all your mail and inform your bank, utility companies and other service providers (i.e. store cards etc).
- If you're making an online transaction, be certain it's secure (using https://www.....) with a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen. If it's not, don't proceed. Pay with a credit, rather than debit, card. It offers you greater financial protection in case of fraud.
- Beware of those file-sharing programmes. You might be able to download music and moves, but others can also reach inside your computer. That alone is a good reason to password protect any files you have with personal and financial data.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft....
If you think you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, act quickly to ensure you are not liable for any financial losses.
- Report all lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books to the organisation that issued them.
- Inform your bank, building society and credit-card company of any unusual transactions on your statement.
- Request a copy of your credit file to check for any suspicious credit applications.
- Report the theft of personal documents and suspicious credit applications to the police, and ask for a crime reference number. (Greater Manchester Police switchboard number is 0161 872 5050)
- Contact CIFAS - The UK's Fraud Prevention Service to apply for protective registration.
Once you have registered you should be aware that CIFAS members will carry out extra checks to see when anyone, including you, applies for a financial service, such as a loan, using your address.
CIFAS - The UK's Fraud Prevention Service
CIFAS Protective Registration
Bankhead Crossway South
Edinburgh, EH11 4EP.
Tel: 0330 1000 180
You can also get more advice at:
Bank Safe Online
Reducing unwanted sales calls, junk mail and email marketing
One of the best ways to stop unwanted marketing is to tick the appropriate box on any form you fill out. When filling in a form, always read the short statement provided by the organisation - this is normally at the bottom of the form.
The statement will summarise how the organisation intends to use your information. The statement will usually give you the option to either ‘opt in' to or ‘opt out' of having your information used for marketing or passed to a third party.
Even if you forget to tick the box, you always have the right to ask an organisation to stop using your personal information for marketing.
You can do this in a letter or email. There is no particular form of words you should use, but you need to make clear the following:
- your identity;
- the personal information you are referring to; and
- the method of direct marketing you wish to stop.
If you are not sure who to write to, address your letter or email to the organisation's data protection officer or company secretary. It is also advisable to send any letters by recorded delivery and keep a copy.
When they receive your letter or email, the organisation should stop using your personal information for marketing. This should normally take no longer than 28 days. But it may take longer for pre-printed mailings.
Reducing sales calls
To reduce the number of unwanted sales calls, register your home and mobile phone numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This service is free and takes 28 days to become active.
Note that registering your mobile number with the TPS will only stop live marketing voice calls, not SMS text messages, or automated calls.
To stop unwanted sales calls, register your details:
1) online at tpsonline.org.uk or
2) by phoning 0845 070 0707; or
3) by writing to: The Telephone Preference Service (TPS), DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8SS.
Reducing direct and junk mail
To reduce the volume of unwanted direct or junk mail, register your name and address with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS).
The MPS is again a free service set up by the direct-marketing industry to help people who don't want to receive junk mail. The MPS can remove your name and address from up to 95% of direct-mail lists. However, it will not stop direct mail from companies who don't check their list with the MPS before sending direct mail, and it won't stop mail addressed to ‘the occupier'.
It will take up to four months for the service to take full effect, but you should notice a reduction of mail during this period. To stop direct and junk mail register your details:
1) online at www.mpsonline.org.uk or
2) phone 0845 7034599
3) write to:
Mailing Preference Service (MPS)
DMA House,70 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8SS
You can also stop the amount of ‘unaddressed mail' you receive by registering your address with the Royal Mail's Door to Door opt-out service. However, this service will not stop mail addressed to ‘the occupier'.
To register write to:
Royal Mail Door to Door Opt Outs, Kingsmead House, Oxpens Road
Or email: email@example.com