Identity fraud and theft has become frequent and voluminous over the past couple of decades, as personal information has become increasingly automated.
It can result from your personal details falling in to criminal hands either verbally, on paper or via your computer.
Identity fraudsters and thieves have clever and evolving methods with which they can obtain your details. All they need to set their wheels in motion are a few of your basic details, such as your name, your current address or previous one, your telephone number, your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, your PIN number – basically, any of the details that are used by your lenders for security purposes.
What they can then do with your details once they have them in their possession is frightening. The criminal activities they generally undertake include the obtaining of credit, products or services under your identity if you become an unlucky victim.
If this should be the case, you at least have the peace of mind that your lenders do not hold you liable for fraudulent transactions that you did not authorise and had no knowledge of.
However, the administrative aggravation that both yourself, as the borrower, and your lenders suffer can be intolerable.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that many borrowers do not apply due diligence to the checking of their financial records and statements, thus allowing identity fraud and theft to spiral out of control, rather than nipping it in the bud during its early stages.
If you are one of these people – nothing to be unduly embarrassed about, as it is many people – it can be a good idea to refer to your credit report as a time saving method to catch crime early and prevent it from escalating unnecessarily.
Are You at Risk of Identity Fraud and Theft?
No one is 100% exempt from the risks of identity fraud and theft, but you might consider paying extra attention and taking additional care of your personal details when you are in the following high risk situations:-
When answering your phone and the caller clams to be from a financial institution, do not automatically assume that the call is genuine and reveal your personal details that they might ask for by means of security checking purposes.
When disposing of your old mail, do not do so before ensuring that criminals cannot see your personal details if they sift through your dustbin. This is a disturbingly common practice that is used to reap personal details from letters, statements, bills, credit and debit card receipts and even discarded junk mail.
When you are online on your computer, either using your email or the internet, you are a potential target of hackers and phishers. Hackers can obtain the personal information stored in your computer if you do not take important precautions, such as using a firewall, anti spy programmes and different, unobvious passwords for the sites you use online.
When shopping online, you should avoid entering your card details on to sites that are insecure and do not display a padlock symbol. Phishers have also duped many unsuspecting victims.
They send duplicitous emails which genuinely look like they are from your bank, as do the fake websites you are directed to for verification of your personal details.
When you are moving one of your many priorities is to ensure that your mail and your telephone calls both arrive safely at your new address and stop arriving at your old one. You can do this by giving pre-notification of your new details and moving date in advance to your lenders and suppliers.
You might want to have your mail redirected to your new address or, if you are confident that you have covered off all genuine concerns who need your new address details, then reduce your risk of further unwanted junk mail to your old address by registering with the Mail preference Service.
Do likewise with the Telephone Preference Service to prevent cold calling to your old address. Of course, be sure also to inform your local Council for your Electoral Roll entry.
When you are using your credit and debit cards at ATM machines and in stores, be careful that you shield your PIN number as you are entering it and never, ever disclose it to anyone.
How Can You Use Your Credit Report to Counteract Identity Fraud and Theft?
Your credit report is a useful tool that you can utilise on a monthly basis to identify and put a speedy halt to identity fraud and theft, as it contains not only your personal details, but specific information about your past and present credit.
You can take up a free month’s trial with a reputable credit reference agency and then sign up to receive your credit report every month for a minimal fee.
The financial information included contains:-
Including accounts that you applied for and use and also accounts that have been opened under your name about which you have no knowledge, thus allowing you to identify potentially fraudulent activity.
Including your own home or homes where you have genuine credit and any other addresses that you have no knowledge of.
Including applications that you have made that have been either accepted or declined, plus fraudulent applications that have been made in your name and which you do not know if they have been accepted or declined.
Including those carried out by lenders or other third parties that you granted your permission to and others that you might never have heard of.
Identity fraud and theft is out there in abundance. Whilst there are many safety measures that you can put in to place to protect your personal details to the best of your ability, identity fraud and theft can and does happen with the best forearming and forewarning in the world.
Your credit report can be your key to combating it early and, furthermore, you often do not have to do it alone when subscribing to the services of credit reference agencies. Many offer fraud support as part of their packages. Their experienced professionals can offer your practical help by contacting and working alongside the relevant organisations on your behalf for prompt actions and conclusions should you experience identity fraud and theft.