One of the fastest growing crimes these days is identity theft. Fraudsters pretend that they’re you and use your identity to get credit and spend money.
If that happens to you, your credit rating will probably be damaged, and it’ll be harder for you to get a new credit card or mortgage.
You could also end up out of pocket – at least initially. Sorting out the whole mess can take as long as a year.
And don’t assume it won’t happen to you. Experian, the credit reference company, reckons that approximately two million people in the UK have been victims of ID fraud.
So here are some steps you can take to make sure your identity isn’t stolen:
1. Don’t use the same password again and again
The average Brit has logins for 26 different accounts and websites. Yet he only uses five passwords spread between those sites.
The prudent approach is to have a different password for every single site. Then if fraudsters got your, say, your linkedin login, they still wouldn’t be able to access your credit card.
2. Use complex passwords
The best passwords are at least ten characters long. Mix up numbers and letters, and use upper case and lower case.
3. Don’t get caught out by phishing emails
If you see an email supposedly coming from your bank, be very wary. Don’t give away your account details to anyone online. Your bank would never ask you for any sensitive information online.
4. Make sure you’ve got good anti-virus protection on your computer
Read Kit out your PC for free for information on how to get free anti-virus software.
5. Check your bank account and credit cards frequently
Make sure there are no strange transactions going through.
6. Check your credit rating
If someone is fraudulently using your identity, that may well affect your credit score. In other words, banks may be more reluctant to lend to you.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have one single credit score. There are three main credit rating companies that provide credit information to the banks. The banks then decide whether they’re willing to lend to you or not.
If you want to see what information the credit rating companies have on you, they’re obliged to tell you if you pay £2. Or you can sign up for a free 30-day trial with the Experian CreditExpert product which will give you easy access to your information.
And if you’re particularly keen, you could continue using CreditExpert once the trial is over and pay £14.99 a month. That's a lot of money and many people won't want to pay that much. But the service does include a web monitoring facility that will flag up any suspicious activity promptly. That web monitoring facility will flag up any suspicious activity, so it may be worth considering.
More on ID fraud:
how to protect your PINs and passwords
The five worst ID fraud scams!
The identity fraud capital of the UK