Tony Levene is a renowned financial journalist, who has previously been a columnist for Guardian Money. He has written several books, including 'Investing for Dummies' and won the ABI Lifetime Achievement award and the Headline Money award.
Look around you when there are people about. One in 25 adults you see are likely to be the victim of identity theft.
By stealing personal details such as name, address, phone numbers, bank and credit card details, criminals can use your identity to loot your bank account, get loans and run up bills on your credit cards. Many will even hijack your identity to obtain driving licences and passports – key documents in money laundering and illegal immigration rackets.
The one in 25 figure is based on National Fraud Authority statistics (published in October 2010). It believes 1.8 million adults had identities stolen in the previous year, losing over £2.7billion or around £1,500 per victim.
That's the pure monetary loss – it ignores victims' worry and stress. A stolen identity can mean a freeze on your money, debt collectors at your door and difficulty with new loans or mobile phone contracts.
Identity theft has exploded with the growth of online business. There are illegal sites where criminals swap or sell credit card details knowing perpetrators out of sight in a far-off internet cafe can pose as anyone.
No security is guaranteed 100%. But if you leave windows open and doors unlocked, then don't be too surprised if you become a victim. So there are some obvious “don't do's.”
Identity theft has exploded with the growth of
If financial or other paperwork goes missing, or you notice unexplained entries on accounts, you could be a victim. Tell the police, your banking and credit card providers and one of the three credit reference agencies – Callcredit, Equifax or Experian.
Some insurance providers sell ID theft insurance as part of their home insurance offerings, It’s worth checking your home insurance policy to see if you already have this and if not, consider whether you might need it.
If your details are stolen either online or physically – perhaps after a burglary – or you fear there might be a problem, consider signing up to the CIFAS (the UK Fraud Prevention Service) protective registrar which costs around £15 a year. This can prevent attacks or give you an early warning because an alert will be flagged when you apply for credit.
For more details go to http://www.identitytheft.org.uk
Terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and acceptance criteria apply.
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