How it happens
Identity theft can occur in several ways. It can range from someone using your credit illegally, to having your entire identity assumed by another person and then transactions completed in your name without your knowledge or consent.
Important personal information can be accessed by a determined thief. Some examples of how criminals gain access to your personal documentation are listed below:
- Your wallet or purse is stolen with all your identifying cards.
- Your home or office is burgled and personal documents were stolen.
- Important documents, such as bank statements, credit cards, utility bills and tax return, are stolen from your letterbox.
- Mail is diverted to another address without your knowledge.
- Recycle or general rubbish bins being searched.
- Inappropriate handling of your personal information by businesses.
- Incorrect disposal of documentation that details your personal information.
How to protect yourself?
It is much easier for a criminal to gain personal information by stealing documentation than hacking into your computer. You can take an active role in reducing the risk of your identity being used without your knowledge by taking the following steps to secure your personal documentation.
- Destroy or shred identifying information when you are throwing out personal papers. That also includes ‘pre-approved credit card applications’.
- Secure your mail box with a lock and make sure mail is cleared regularly.
- Keep documents in a secure place if you wish to retain them.
- Secure your personal information at home.
- Keep a list of all your accounts and credit cards in a secure place.
Shredding might be inconvenient, but it’s absolutely necessary—and it’s fundamental to protecting your identity and the identities of those who have entrusted you with their data. Shredding is like recycling, eating well and exercise: You may not always want to do it, but it’s good for you.
What do criminals do with my personal information?
Once a criminal has committed identity theft they can:
- Apply for a credit card in your name.
- Open a bank or building society account in your name.
- Apply for other financial services in your name.
- Run up debts (e.g. Use your credit/debit card details to make a purchase) or obtain a loan in your name.
- Apply for any benefits in your name such as housing benefit, new tax credits, income support, job seeker’s allowance, childcare benefit.
- Apply for a driver’s licence in your name.
- Register a vehicle in your name.
- Apply for job/employment in your name.
- Apply for a passport in your name.
- Apply for a mobile phone contract in your name.
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