Friday, May 7, 2010

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real issue, your identity and personal information are valuable. Criminals can find out your personal details and use them to open bank accounts and get credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licenses in your name. Identity theft and fraud affects often forms part of more serious criminal operations such as people trafficking and drug smuggling.

Identity crime definitions

Identity Theft and Identity Fraud are often used very loosely to describe any situation in which personal details are misappropriated for gain.

Identity Crime -This is a generic term for identity theft, creating a false identity or committing identity fraud.

False Identity - This is a) a fictitious (i.e. invented) identity, or b) an existing (i.e. genuine) identity that has been altered to create a fictitious identity.

Identity Theft -This occurs when sufficient information about an identity is obtained to facilitate identity fraud, irrespective of whether, in the case of an individual, the victim is alive or dead. Identity theft can result in fraud affecting consumers' personal financial circumstances as well as costing the government and financial services millions of pounds a year. Identity theft is also known as impersonation fraud. It is the misappropriation of the identity (e.g. name, date of birth, current or previous addresses) of another person without their knowledge or consent.

Identity Fraud - This occurs when a false identity or someone else’s identity details are used to support unlawful activity, or when someone avoids obligation/liability by falsely claiming that he/she was the victim of identity fraud. Identity fraud involves the use of an individual or a company’s identity information to open accounts, fraudulently obtain social security benefits, (in the case of individuals), apply for credit and/or obtain goods and services. Identity fraud can be described as the use of that stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception. Stealing an individual’s identity does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud and this is an important distinction.

Tips on how to protect yourself-

  • · Keep your personal information safe and secure at all times preferably in a locked drawer

  • · Do not carry debit or credit cards unnecessarily, store them in a safe place. Keep a note of the emergency numbers you should call so if they become lost or stolen you can contact the supplier immediately.

  • · Always check bank and other statements as soon as they arrive and query any unfamiliar transactions immediately.

  • · Periodically obtain a copy of your credit file from one of the credit reference agencies – this will enable you to check which financial institutions have accessed your details. It is particularly important to do this a few months after you move house as fraudsters may have obtained and used documentation sent to your old address.

  • · If you live in a property shared with other people who may be able to access your mail, arrange to collect new bank cards from the branch.

  • · Always shred (or destroy) unwanted bills, invoices, credit and debit card slip, banks statements and other unwanted post which includes your name and other details.

  • · When you have to give your card details or personal information over the phone, Internet or in a shop, make sure other people cannot hear or see your personal information.

  • · Never give personal or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.. Ask for their phone number, check it is genuine and, if so, call them back. Be aware that a bank will never ask for your PIN or for a whole security number or password. Keep them secure.

  • · Don't use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords for any other websites. Using different passwords increases security and makes it less likely that someone could access any other accounts.

  • · Keep your passwords safe and never record or store them in a manner which leaves them open to theft, such as in your purse or wallet.

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