Ten ways to keep your ID safe
Identity fraud takes place when criminals get hold of enough sensitive data to impersonate you, clear your accounts, borrow money and run up debts in your name - and it's a booming business, with a 32% increase in the number of identity fraud cases in 2009, according to CIFAS, the fraud prevention service.
Some surveys indicate that as many as six million Britons have been victims, although the government estimates that the crime affects closer to 120,000 people each year. Either way it's one of the fastest-growing crimes of the 21st century.
To avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud, Experian CreditExpert has the following top tips:
- Be smart with your smartphone
Be careful what information is stored on your phone - including emails that can be accessed without a password. You should also be wary of security settings if you access public Wi-Fi hotspots, especially if you use your phone to bank online.
- Don't reveal too much on social networking sites
Fraudsters use personal details like date of birth, age, maiden names or pets' names to guess private passwords.
- Keep pins and passwords private
Memorise details rather than writing them down and never give account details to anyone else. Use different passwords for different accounts and try to avoid easily guessed names. Try not to carry your passport, driving licence or even credit cards unless you know you'll need them.
- Keep your firewalls and security settings up to date
It's also an idea to keep separate email addresses when you register for online services, in addition to using separate passwords.
- Read your bank statements for irregularities
Unexpected entries can be the first indication that somebody is stealing your money. And if you receive paper statements, be sure to shred them or anything else that could be used to impersonate you before binning them.
- Check your credit report regularly
It's a history of all your credit accounts and will highlight any irregularities such as suspect applications for credit and rises in card balances. With CreditExpert membership you can get unlimited views of your Experian credit report, which shows all credit activity in your name so you can spot any potentially fraudulent activity.
- If in doubt, don't click
If an email seems suspicious, contact the relevant organisation and don't give out personal details. Your bank, credit card provider and any reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email.
- Register to vote at your current address
Lenders use the electoral roll to check that you live where you say you do. If you're not registered, a criminal could register you at another address.
- Keep an eye on your post
Should any mail go missing, tell the Post Office immediately, and be especially careful when you move house.
- Report thefts
Always tell the police, your bank, credit card issuers and anybody else who might be affected if you suffer a theft. That way, your loss is on the record and organisations that might be approached by the thieves will be forewarned.