How to fight ID fraud
Identity theft is a growing problem, with certain people more at risk than others. Here's how the fraudsters steal your money - and how to combat them.
I don't know about you, but I am getting increasingly paranoid about fraud. And one of the fastest growing forms of fraud - and the one that concerns me the most - is ID fraud.
New research from CreditExpert has identified which sections of the populace are most at risk of identity theft - and it's not who you might expect.
Renting out your identity
Interestingly, the three groups most susceptible to falling victim to ID theft are tenants. The most at risk are young professionals renting property in major cities, who are more than twice as likely to be caught out by ID fraud as the average Brit.
Next on the list are single people, generally in their 30s, working in service industries and living in flats rented predominantly from the council or housing associations. The third group on the list are high-flying graduates paying off student debts and saving for a mortgage deposit, while renting in good areas.
According to CreditExpert, fraudsters are switching their attention away from the high-rollers to people whose personal details they can most easily obtain.
So why are these the groups most at risk - and how can the rest of us ensure we don't get caught out either?
Return to sender
According to the research, the main reason tenants are most vulnerable is down to their post. People who rent are more likely than homeowners to have shared hallways, which makes them susceptible to mail intervention, one of the most popular tactics employed by ID fraudsters.
Renters are also at risk because they tend to move more often than home-owners, and without redirecting their mail, they are easy prey for the crooks.
Building your fraud defences
On that basis, you won't be surprised to hear that protecting your post is the top priority to guard against ID fraud.
The first thing to do is ensure that the post you receive is secure. If your post is kept in a communal area, for example if you live in a block of flats, then you may want to explore the possibility of a lockable postbox.
And when you do move home, make sure that you tell each organisation that you deal with where to send all future correspondence. It would also be a good idea to tell Royal Mail as well, so that they can redirect any post to your new address for a year.
My other half is terrifying with a shredder. I've barely opened my post before she has the thing plugged in and armed, ready to destroy my personal details.
And to be fair, she is absolutely spot on.
It is absolutely essential that documents with important details are dismantled beyond repair before binning them, as the fraudsters are only too happy to go through your trash.
Don't give them a free treat if they do!
Check your statements
This is something I am absolutely rubbish at.
You should always, ALWAYS, go through each statement you receive, whether it's your bank account or credit card, and make sure you recognise each and every transaction.
It's not the big expenses that get through undetected - we would all notice the unexplained large purchase - but rather the smaller amounts that escape our attention. But it's those costs that soon add up.
I would also recommend regularly checking your credit report. That way, you'll know when someone has applied for credit in your name. Members of lovemoney.com can get a free credit report from Credit Expert, but be sure to cancel after the 30-day trial ends or you will end up paying £6.99 each month.
Phishing for a catch
I don't know about you, but I get fake emails from con artists claiming to be my bank on a fairly regular basis.
The trick, which is called phishing, consists of emails purporting to be from your back or credit card provider, asking you to reset or confirm your security details by following a link in the email. Of course, in reality they are just trying to get hold of your details.
Don't be caught out! Report the email to your email provider, or Bank Safe Online.
Avoid big bags!
This one sounds daft, but is apparently a very real threat. Fraud specialist firm CPP warned earlier this year that trendy large handbags are making women targets for ID theft.
The thinking goes that because the fashionable bags are quite large, women are more likely to carry more of their vital documents - passports, wage slips, etc - in them, which can then all be used to steal your identity.
Following on from that, even at home it is massively important to keep your vital documents in a secure place. If they do go missing, do not hesitate to report it to the relevant authorities.
Guard your cards
This is the big one for me really. Don't ever let your cards, be they credit or debit, out of your sight. A fraudster doesn't need long to take advantage if you are being a bit lax over their security.
Equally, ensure that you and you alone know your pin - and keep it that way!
Also, try to limit what you carry around with you at any one time. For example, if in your wallet you have all of your credit and debit cards, your driver's licence and perhaps your National Insurance card (as more than one of my friends do), then quite frankly you are asking for trouble.
If you want further information on what to do to prevent being caught out by the fraudsters, you might like to check out Stop-idfraud.co.uk, the official website of National Identity Fraud Prevention Week.
Alternatively, have a look at Identitytheft.org.uk, a site set up by the Home Office and various anti-fraud organisations.
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