Identity theft, otherwise known as ID theft or identity fraud, can affect anyone, but what is identity theft and are you at risk?
Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes around and you could be at risk of identity theft no matter what your income or lifestyle.
The credit agency Experian investigated identity fraud and named five risk factors for identity theft, we take a look and offer tips on how to protect yourself.
Identity theft risk 1 – Renting
The study found that people who live in rented accommodation, like young professionals, single people living in council or housing association flats and graduates are the most at risk from identity theft.
People who rent are around twice as at risk from identity theft, primarily because rented homes often have communal entrances, making it easy for post to fall into the wrong hands, and one bank statement is all a potential fraudster needs to be able to steal your identity.
ID theft risk 2 – City living
Living in a big city puts you at risk of identity fraud, so it’s no surprise that London is the nation’s identity theft capital, with its residents almost four times more likely to be targeted than average.
In Scotland, the big city pattern is repeated, with Edinburgh and Glasgow being named as identity theft hotspots.
However, living in the suburbs doesn’t necessarily give you any protection – areas popular with commuters like Slough, Guildford, Windsor, Tunbridge Wells and Oxford are also areas where residents are at a greater risk of identity theft.
Identity fraud risk 3 – Moving house
Moving house and a change of address put you at risk from identity theft.
Fraud as a result of forwarding post can lead to identity theft, so you should always report missing letters to Royal Mail and relevant organisations like your bank and credit card issuer as soon as you notice they’ve gone missing.
If you are moving, protect yourself by getting Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year after your move. It’s important to do this even if you notify your bank, utility companies, credit card issuer etc of your new address.
Although even if something as seemingly insignificant as a catalogue goes missing, the details it could contain (like an account number or credit limit) could lead to problems.
Also, don’t forget to take yourself off the electoral roll at your old address and register to vote at your new home as soon as you can.
If you’re not on the electoral roll at the right address, then a criminal could potentially register in your name and use this as proof of residence when applying for credit.
Identity theft risk 4 – Carelessness
Being careless with your personal information could put you at risk of identity theft.
Protect yourself by being very selective about who you share your details with – don’t part with personal information, let alone your financial details, over the phone, via e-mail or on websites if you aren’t 100% sure who you are dealing with.
Also be careful about what details you reveal on social networking sites like Facebook – even something as innocent as mentioning dates of birth, pets and children’s names could give criminals a clue to your PIN numbers and passwords.
Identity theft risk 5 – Not paying attention
The majority of people who are victims of identity theft discover the crime themselves often finding out that their identity had been stolen when they check their credit report.
Your credit report is a powerful weapon when it comes to cutting your risk of identity theft.
It is contains a list of all your credit accounts, your repayment record and crucially shows recent applications for new credit accounts.
By regularly checking your credit report, you’ll be able to spot any unfamiliar applications or unexplained debts and act quickly.
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