What is Identity Fraud
& Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal details. Identity fraud is when a criminal uses your information without your knowledge to obtain credit, goods or other services fraudulently. The cost to the UK economy is over £1.2 billion but the personal cost to victims is not just financial, it can be a long and traumatic process to reclaim your identity.
Both at home and work we deal with pieces of information on a daily basis that may seem harmless individually, but when pieced together can be very valuable to criminals who could use that information to obtain passports and driving licenses in your name, open bank accounts, get credit cards, loans and state benefits.
Research commissioned by Fellowes in 2012* shows that almost 1 in 5 people in Europe have already fallen victim to identity fraud - so it is important for you, your family and your business to understand how it can happen and how you can prevent it happening to you.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Throughout the day, you may be at risk for identity theft at home, when you are out and about and Online. If you know where to look, and how to protect yourself, the chances of becoming a victim become much lower. Essentially, identity thieves are looking for personal details about you, your family or even your business - like your full name, current or previous address, date of birth and other key details like your bank account or credit card details for example.
Here are some examples of the methods identity thieves might use to get your information:
Bin Raiding - Identity thieves may go through the rubbish you throw out. Utility bills, bank and credit card statements and even letters or CV's all carry valuable personal information that can used to steal an identity. Make sure you shred all documents that you wouldn't want to fall into the hands of a stranger.
TIP: Use a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder for ultimate security.
Mail Forwarding - By not asking the postal service to redirect your mail when moving house, you are potentially providing fraudsters with a wealth of information about you delivered direct to their doorstep. Make sure when you change address you get your mail redirected to your new address for at least a year.
Unsolicited Contact - Phone calls claiming to be from banks asking you to update your personal information should be regarded with caution. Also fraudsters posing as market researchers may ask for personal information over the phone. Credible organisations will not mind you double checking their authenticity before providing such information.
Out and About
Theft Of Wallet Or Purse - The average purse or wallet contains bank cards, credit cards and valuable identity documents including driving licenses and membership cards. Victims realise very quickly that their wallet has been stolen but often do not realise the value of the information contained within it until it is too late.
Card Skimming - This usually occurs when a thief gets your information by 'skimming' or copying your credit card information when you make a purchase. They often then sell the information to professional criminal gangs. Like phishing, skimming can be used on its own to collect enough information to use your card fraudulently without stealing your entire identity.
Personal Information Online - Anybody that uses the internet will regularly be asked to share personal information to gain access to websites and buy goods. Increasingly people are also placing large amounts of personal information about themselves on social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, Linkedin and MySpace. Be cautious about the personal information you broadcast online. Fraudsters often look here for information.
Phishing - This term describes identity theft via email. Fraudsters will send an email claiming to be from a bank, a credit card company or other organisation with which you might have a relationship, asking for urgent information. Typically the email will ask you to click on a link to enter your account details on the company's website to protect against identity fraud or to avoid your account being deactivated. But if you click on the link in the email you will be taken to a website which looks genuine, but has in fact been created by fraudsters to trick you into revealing your private information. The fraudsters then use the information provided to set about obtaining money from your accounts.
*Fellowes independent commissioned research.