Identity fraud is a fairly common crime nowadays and with the advances in technology, it is happening more and more often. However, identity fraud doesn’t always start online and was happening way before the internet came about.
In most cases, offline identity fraud will start when a person’s purse or wallet becomes lost or stolen. The steps below will show you how you can better protect yourself and your identity so that you too, do not become a victim.
Keep an Eye on Your Wallet and Purse
A purse or a wallet is a main target for criminals due to the fact that it’s the place where most people keep their personal information. If a criminal gets hold of this, they can have all the information they need to cause you serious problems.
- Always keep an eye on your wallet and purse and keep them in a safe place at all times. Any time that you are going out somewhere, only take the essentials that you are going to need and leave anything else at home. If you are heading to the store for a loaf of bread and some milk, you really don’t need to be taking your credit cards. If you are walking, do you really need to take your driving license?
Unless you really must, try to avoid carrying any of the following items:
- Social Security cards (National Insurance cards in the UK)
- Birth certificates
Watch Your Mail
The next most common target by identity thieves is the mailbox right outside your property. Never put outgoing checks, bill payments or financial information in your unlocked home mailbox. If you are sending any sensitive documents, do so only using a secure postal mailbox or send them from the post office itself.
Not everybody likes to use electronic statements for their accounts but we highly recommend it so that statements of your accounts are not turning up at your address. If you do choose for paper versions, be fully aware of when these statements are scheduled to arrive. If they are late, call the credit card company to confirm if the statement was sent. Be sure to shred old bills and unnecessary financial records containing personal information.
Watch Your Credit Report
It is always a good idea, but even more so for helping prevent identity fraud, to keep an eye on your credit report and bank statements. When doing so, consider the following:
- Make a list of all your credit card and bank account information, and store the list in a secure place such as on a password-protected flash drive. Include all of your account numbers, expiration dates, credit limits and phone numbers or emails of the customer service and fraud departments. If your card becomes lost or is stolen, you will then be able to quickly notify your credit card provider to prevent fraudulent charges.
- If you spot any mistakes on your credit report, notify the relevant agencies immediately.
Keep Your Social Security Number/National Insurance Number Safe
Social Security numbers are often used to open fraudulent accounts or to access financial information or assets. If a business requests your social security number you have a right to ask them what they need that information for. If they can not give a valid reason, do not hand over the requested information.
Also, never give confidential information to an unsolicited phone caller who claims they represent a financial institution or creditor. Instead, get the caller’s name, location, phone number and reason for the call. Then call the phone number on your billing statements to verify the caller’s identification.
What to do if You Become a Victim of Identity Theft
The most important thing that you can do when you realize that you have become the victim of identity theft is to act fast. If a criminal has your information they can very quickly empty accounts and take out credit in your name.
- Contact your bank and lenders – Immediately get in touch with your bank, credit card providers or other lenders to alert them to the fact that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. They will then investigate and may even contact the police for you. You will need to provide proof of your identity and address.
- Report it to Action Fraud – If you are a resident of the UK you should report your case to Action Fraud – the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre – they’ll advise on the steps you need to take and any other organisations you should contact.
- Federal Trade Commission – If you are in the US, you should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. As part of the reporting process, you’ll receive a recovery plan and even prefilled letters and forms that can be used to file police reports and dispute fraudulent charges. To get started, visit their official website here.
Keep in control:
- Get in touch with the Royal Mail or local postal service if you think that your post has been stolen, tampered with, or if a mail redirection has been set up for your address
- Keep a record of all your calls, letters and emails about the fraud
- Report all lost or stolen documents such as passports or driving licences
- Ask the Mailing Preference Service to remove your name from any mailing lists – this service is free and will help stop marketing materials going to your old addresses