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Preventing Identity Theft and Fraud

When Keeley Hawes read the first scripts for ITV drama series, Identity, some of the plots were strangely familiar. The show centres on a police squad investigating identity theft and fraud – and Keeley already knew how the victims of this fast-growing crime feel.

“I have been a victim myself, so the stories weren’t so much of a shock,” says the actress, best known for Spooks and Ashes to Ashes. “It was simply someone who worked in my house, came and took my credit cards and spent £7,000.”

And she’s far from the only sufferer. Last year, Experian’s Victims of Fraud service saw a 20 per cent rise in the number of people impersonated by criminals to max out their credit, clear accounts or borrow money in their names – or all three. Meanwhile, CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service, reported a 22.86 per cent rise in victims of identity theft and fraud in the first quarter of 2024, with almost 57,000 people affected.

These 10 simple steps will prevent Identity Theft and Fraud

  1. Keep valuable items and documents, such as credit cards, passports and bank statements, safe when you’re not using them – preferably under lock and key.
  2. Shred sensitive documents before throwing them out, especially bank and card statements or anything giving account data. Get into the habit of deleting your name and address from routine posts, too – that way, you won’t let anything slip through and will prevent identity theft.
  3. Don’t give your ID to cold callers or unsolicited e-mailers—you never know what they might do with your personal information.
  4. Check all financial statements carefully, looking for unfamiliar transactions that could indicate ID fraud.
  5. The Home Office recommends checking your credit report regularly. It lists your credit accounts, repayment history and any new applications – if you spot anything suspicious, you can stop trouble before it escalates. It’s free to see your Experian credit report with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert.
  6. Always use the privacy settings on social networks and be careful how much you tell your online friends. Anything you might use as a PIN or password, such as an anniversary, family birthday or nickname, shouldn’t be public. And remember to update your firewall and virus protection software.
  7. Redirect your post when you move house – intercepting post is an easy way to steal your identity. Report any missing mail immediately to prevent identity theft, in case it has been taken or sent on to another address.
  8. Never share your PINs or passwords; don’t write them down in a form anyone else might see and understand. Don’t use the exact security details for several accounts, either – it’s like giving a crook the key to your finances.
  9. Follow up if you’re unexpectedly refused credit – a criminal could have ruined your credit rating by running up debts in your name.
  10. Tell the police and any organisation that might be affected if potentially sensitive items are stolen – for example, tell your bank if your cards has gone missing and contact your card company if your credit card disappears.

Conclusion to Identity Theft and Fraud

If the ten simple steps are too much for you to do at once, start by following a few steps and then slowly increasing until you have covered all the steps that you can. Identity theft is no joke and should be taken seriously, as it can ruin your life until you have proven that it has happened and that you are the victim.

Your thoughts, experiences and comments about identity theft and fraud are welcome below.