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   Inside Out - East Midlands: Friday February 16, 2007
Credit card statement
Beware of leaving your credit card statement lying around

Identity theft

Identity theft is Britain's fastest growing crime.

It costs the nation £1.7 billion every year.

It's silent, hidden, difficult to detect, yet breathtakingly simple.

Criminals plunder the identities of the living and the dead for personal profit.

Midlands hotspot

The East Midlands is a hotspot for Identity Fraud.

Last year 42,000 of us were hit by the fraudsters, costing the local economy over £100 million.

The British and Super Middleweight boxing champion Carl Froch from Nottingham was one of them.

He tells us how he found out his personal identity had been stolen, ruining his credit rating.

Carl Froch
Boxer Carl Froch - victim of identity fraud

Carl was the victim of a postal scam.

He only found out that someone had been using his identity when he applied for a mortgage renewal and was declined for the first time in his life:

"I was a victim - I never saw it coming. It almost cost me £35,000."

On further investigation, he discovered that someone had been taking out store cards and credit in his name without his knowledge:

"They had redirected my mail to their address so that for two months they could look through it and steal my identity.

"I wanted to get hold of him and let loose on him."

Stealing your identity

With the help of reformed convict Bob Turney, we reveal just how easy it is to steal someone's identity and track them down from personal information which they thought they'd confined to the rubbish bin:

"Just by carelessly throwing away a CV, means that you are supplying a potential ID stealer with the complete set of information they need."

Bob Turney
Bob Turney - it's easy to access personal information

Bob knows all about ID theft:

"ID criminals are very clever, they're up with IT and know what to do."

So we tracked down a man who had thrown away an entire bank statement which we found lying on a rubbish tip, just waiting to be found by the 'wrong' person.

He was shocked when we told him that he had thrown away a 'ready made' identity kit.

James Jones from credit reference agency Experian says that the best form of defence is keeping an eye on your credit report:

"The sooner ID fraud is spotted the better.

"And invest in a shredder - it could be the best £20 you ever spent."

Top tips

Identity fraud is a 21st Century crime - and it's the fastest growing type of fraud in the UK.

So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim?

Discarded documents
Be careful of throwing away old financial information

* Keep your passport, credit cards, cheque books, driving licence, pay slips and other personal information in a safe place.

* Check bank and credit card statements carefully, and query anything that looks out of place.

* Be careful when throwing out old documents, bank statements and credit card receipts. Criminals search dustbins for these.

* Shred old documents to prevent bin raiders from acquiring information about you and your identity.

* If you suspect anything odd, call the relevant body as soon as possible e.g the Passport Office, Vehicle Licensing, credit card company, bank etc

* Check with a credit reference agency such as Experian or Equifax to make sure no fraudulent applications for credit have been made in your name.

* Make your PC more secure - set up passwords. Make it tough for someone to work out your password - use a combination of letters and numbers in a random order. Change it as regularly as feasible. Be wary of sharing your password.

* Emails are a common form of communication but be aware of their limitations. Normal users on the internet can't see other people's emails very easily but a hacker certainly could.

* If information is confidential and financially sensitive , don't send it via email.

* Always use well known and trusted companies when buying goods online and avoid giving out any personal information on a site you haven't checked out first.

* Firewalls are another way to protect your computer from unauthorised access.

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