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Identity theft
Fighting Credit Fraud and
Identity Theft

Unfortunately, these days credit fraud and identity theft are becoming bigger and bigger problems. What can you do to fight back? Firstly, you need to learn about how credit fraud and identity theft can happen to you and then you need to regularly check your credit report for unauthorised use.

How does credit fraud and identity theft happen?
It can be frighteningly easy for thieves to get all the information they need to commit crimes of credit fraud and identity theft. For example, if they obtain information such as your driving license, PIN numbers, home address, and mother's maiden name, then they could well buy goods and take out loans in your name, take over your bank or credit accounts, and even divert your card statements to a different address. Thieves can often get this personal information relatively easily by going through your rubbish, reading Chip and Pin numbers over your shoulder, using stolen and lost bank cards and credit cards, and by using phone and internet scams.

Preventing credit fraud and identity theft

Here's what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Closely guard your personal data.

  • Check bank and credit card statements for purchases you haven't made to fight credit fraud.

  • Only use your security details online on secure shopping sites that you know that you can trust to prevent credit fraud.

  • If you move home, have the Post Office redirect your post, and notify all relevant financial institutions of your new address to prevent identity theft.

  • Never give out 'security' information (such as your passport or National Insurance number, card numbers, mother's maiden name, PINs, and security codes) over the phone unless you know the company well and have placed the call yourself. If a company calls you, then you can always take its number and call it back to check that it is who it says it is. Bear in mind that banks and other financial institutions generally never ask for a full password or security code over the phone; they will ask for one or two numbers or letters in the sequence as an identity check.

  • Change passwords to something other than your mother's maiden name.  Choose something that you can remember, but that a thief cannot access. If you need to write passwords and codes down then don't keep them in your purse or wallet, and don't leave them in an obvious place at home.

  • Only carry the cards you use. Leave official documents like your passport and birth certificate at home unless you absolutely have to use them for something or consider storing them with a bank or building society.

  • Shred all of your financial documents before you throw them away to prevent identity theft and credit fraud.

  • If you don't get a bank or credit card statement on time, call the company immediately in case your address has been changed by a thief.

  • Get in the habit of checking your credit report regularly.  You can sign up for alerts with the major credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Callcredit) that will tell you if your account changes at all, and identity theft or credit fraud are suspected.

Pre-approved credit offers

If a thief intercepts your post, then offers such as pre-approved credit cards and loans could spell disaster in the wrong hands. We all get these kinds of offers and they make checking your credit report especially important, because it will show you if there are accounts listed in your name that you did not apply for. The identity theft perpetrator could even go so far as to make minimum payments on a credit card for a while until the card balance is used up and then stop paying. It takes just a few months for this to appear as a default on your credit report, and even before then you will be given late payment blacklists.

While the above suggestions may seem obvious, surprisingly, many people still don't take steps to protect themselves against credit fraud and identity theft. The bottom line is: better to be safe than sorry!

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