Identity Theft – Don’t become a victim

identity theftIdentity theft is the name given to a type of crime where someone illegally uses another person’s personal data to obtain goods, services, cash or a pecuniary advantage.

“Real” or “Physical” crime is fast being overtaken by “Cyber” crime. 30% of all reported crime is Cyber crime, according to reported Home Office statistics. These are crimes that occur in cyberspace. To the offender these crimes are considered victimless, since there is no direct contact between the offender and the victim. Such a crime is identity theft.

Our lives today depend on the use of data. This data if in the wrong hands can be abused. If in the wrong hands this data is relatively easy to use to commit an offence. Such data includes social security numbers, pin numbers, credit card numbers, date and place of birth, passwords and bank account details.

This data is now an essential part of our lives. If you are not to become a victim it is important to avoid this data falling into the wrong hands. With your data a criminal can use your data for a variety of offences such as:

  • Credit Card Applications
  • Loan Applications
  • Purchase of Airline Tickets
  • Bank Withdrawals/ Money Transfers
  • Mortgage Applications

The offender ensures that the documentation relating to the fraud is not sent to the victim’s address. Therefore, the victim may not be aware of the fraud for many months. In my experience as a former Scotland Yard Officer I have seen many lives ruined by this type of offence. Such offences cause not only a financial loss but also a loss of reputation. It is an expensive and stressful matter to restore your credit rating, reputation and incorrect data.

You can protect yourself by the following:

  • Do not give personal data over the telephone or via the internet.
  • Do not let your Credit Card out of your sight when paying for Shop or Restaurant services, go to the terminal or get them to bring the portable terminal to you. This will avoid your card being cloned.
  • Shred all bank statements and unsolicited credit card applications.
  • When using ATM machines do not use the machine if it appears altered or has temporary instructions or additions fixed to or in the vicinity of the machine. This could mean that the machine has been altered to video you entering your Pin Number and clone your card details.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails. Your bank will not ask for personal details via email. A clue to fraud emails is usually in the bad grammar or spelling, since these fraudsters are usually sited in some third world country.
  • Shred all unwanted documents such as household and utility bills.
  • Monitor Activity on your accounts.
  • Credit check yourself via a credit reference agency such as Experian or Equifax.
  • Keep documents such as passports, driving licenses, social security card etc. in a locked secure place, a small safe is ideal and can be purchased for about £50.
  • Install ‘spyware’ and virus protection on your computer.