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What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when fraudsters use your personal information without your knowledge or consent to take out bank accounts, credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licenses in your name. It can have a terrible impact on your personal life and finances. For example, you may have difficulty getting loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the problem is sorted out. We list below some ways in which you can protect yourself from identity theft.

Keep your personal information secure

  • If you have a personal credit file check it regularly, especially if you've recently moved house. CallcreditEquifax and Experian all offer credit reports
  • Be extra careful if you live in a property where other people could access your mail. People who live in properties with communal letterboxes are particularly vulnerable
  • Consider picking up valuable items from companies directly rather than having them mailed. For example, if you've ordered new debit cards, credit cards or chequebooks from your bank, you might be able to pick them up from your local branch
  • If you suspect your mail is being stolen in the UK, contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry Line on 0845 774 0740. Check whether a mail redirection order has been made in your name without your knowledge
  • If you move house, tell your bank, card issuer and all other organisations that you deal with immediately. If you live in the UK ask Royal Mail to redirect any mail from your old address to your new one for at least a year
  • Consider using the Mailing Preference Service. This will help limit the amount of unwanted mail you receive
  • Learn more about protecting your identity online. Get safe online has been developed by the Government, police and industry. It offers advice on staying safe online and protecting your computer and the personal information it contains.

Keep your cards safe

  • Cancel any lost or stolen cards immediately. Make a list of all your card issuers' emergency numbers and keep them handy
  • Protect your details when shopping in store, online or by phone. Make sure other people can't hear or see your card details or personal information
  • Never carry documents or plastic cards unnecessarily. Keep them in a safe place when you're not using them
  • Want more tips? Check the card fraud section.

Keep your documents safe

  • Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably locked away at home or your bank. If any of your documents have been lost or stolen, contact the issuing organisation immediately
  • Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder. Never throw away entire bills, receipts, credit or debit card slips, bank statements, or even unwanted post in your name
  • Check statements as soon as they arrive. If you spot any unfamiliar transactions, contact the company concerned immediately.

Keep your passcodes, PINs and memorable words safe

  • Never give personal or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly. Be suspicious, even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. If they've called you, ask for their organisation's name and call them back via that organisation's switchboard. Be aware that banks, including ours, will never ask for your PIN or a whole security number or password
  • Don't use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords for other websites. Using different passcodes increases security and makes it less likely that someone could access all your accounts
  • Never record or store your passcodes or PINs in a manner that leaves them open to theft. For example, don't carry them in your purse or wallet
  • Be suspicious of emails that ask for your personal details. They're often used by fraudsters.

Protect the identities of loved ones who've passed away

Fraudsters sometimes use the identities of people who've died. You can reduce the chance of this happening by removing their details from mailing lists.  Organisations that offer this service include:

More information

The information above has been taken from the identity theft website developed by the Government, Metropolitan Police and various industry bodies.