How to prevent identity theft

Criminal hacker with laptop If you protect your details you can stop them from getting into the wrong hands

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Celebrities such as Beyonce, Jay-Z and Britney Spears have had their private details stolen and posted online. If it can happen to them, could it happen to you?

Your identity and personal information are valuable to criminals.

If they get hold of details such as your full name, address, date of birth, phone number as well as credit card details or bank account numbers, they may be able to steal your identity.

They can use your name to open accounts, get credit cards and loans or apply for state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences.

A full picture of your identity can be obtained from documents such as bank statements or the contents of your wallet, but can also be pieced together from information provided online.

Criminals are becoming adept at hacking through weak passwords or taking advantage of consumers over the internet.

Taking Risks

  • 55% of adult internet users in the UK admit to using the same password for most, if not all, websites
  • 26% say they use easy to remember passwords such as birthdays or names
  • 61% say they make judgements such as checking for padlock symbols before entering personal details
  • 62% say they protect their Wi-Fi internet connection
How to spot identity theft

It is quite difficult to initially spot when fraud has occurred because the criminal is usually one step ahead of the victim.

You may receive a letter demanding payment for an account you didn't set up, your credit card statement may show a series of unfamiliar transactions or a lender may turn you down on the grounds that you haven't been paying your bills.

Up to one in five of us have lost money as a result of cyber criminals and the average loss per online attack is a staggering £247 per person. So, it is advisable to keep a close eye on your money and report anything suspicious immediately.

Protecting yourself

There are a number of simple, straightforward actions we can all take to protect our online identity and guard against online fraud.

  • Choose strong passwords: This is particularly important for the extra verification services used on some websites. Never pick obvious passwords like your date of birth or simply 'password.' The strongest passwords contain letters, numbers and symbols. Pick two random words and then change some of the letters (e.g.b00kshe£p1).
  • Stay secure: Before entering payment details online check the link is secure. There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame (not the page itself), and the web address should being with 'https://'. The 's' stands for 'secure'.
Padlock symbol and https URL Always look out for the padlock symbol and 'https' when entering details online
How to prevent identity theft
  • Check your statements: Watch out for any payments you haven't made, and check that the correct amount has been debited.
  • Destroy documents: Make sure you shred documents before binning them if they contain important personal information.
  • Avoid Cold Calls: If you have not had a conversation with someone before then do not hand over money or personal details over the phone.
  • Set privacy settings: Make sure that it is not possible for the public at large to view personal information about yourself online or on social networking sites. This may provide an avenue for criminals to build up a picture of your identity.
  • Keep your details close: Writing passwords down on your mobile phone or forgetting to cover your pin at ATM's are just some of the ways that physical fraud can take place. The safest place for a password is in your head.
  • Report fraud: If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting Action Fraud.

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