Someone could be out there using your identity, committing crimes defrauding your friends and family, stealing your money or even taking out loans in your name. How would you find out? In the modern world, it’s critical to know what identity theft is, how to check if you’re a victim of identity theft, and what to do if you’re affected by identity theft.
It’s identity theft when someone uses your personal details without your knowledge, usually for their personal gain. They can steal your money, apply for loans, access your accounts and use them for money laundering, trick your friends and family into giving them money, or commit other crimes, all in your name.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, you may have trouble getting a mortgage, a loan or a credit card. Your mail can be redirected. You can be locked out of your accounts or accused of crimes. The thief can claim social security benefits, or even get a passport or driving license in your name.
If you’re a victim of identity theft and you’re not in the habit of checking regularly, you probably won’t realise what’s happened until it has a direct effect on you. If you apply for social services, only to be told you’re already claiming them, or your bank account is suddenly overdrawn and you don’t know how or why, you might be a victim of identity theft. But don’t wait until it happens: check regularly to stay ahead of the criminals.
A lot of identity theft involves banking fraud, so check your bank or building society’s website for the correct number to call, and contact them immediately. They’ll protect your account, cancel and replace any lost or stolen documents, and advise you on what to do next. They may be able to refund any money that was stolen.
Even if your utility providers (electricity, gas, phone, internet) haven’t been affected yet, contact them and ask them to monitor your accounts for fraud.
If someone stole your documents or money, report it to the police through Action Fraud and ask for a crime reference number.
The credit reference agencies have specialist support available for victims of identity theft. They can provide advice for how to react and protect yourself, and help you to sort out your accounts.
Prevention is better than cure. Pay attention, protect your identity and check regularly for any sign that you might be an easy target. It’s far easier than trying to clean up once you’re already a victim of identity theft.