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Q506: What is identity theft and what can be done about it?

Identity theft is when your personal details are stolen and this could lead to identity fraud where a person uses your stolen details in criminal activity to obtain goods and services by deception without your knowledge or permission.

Your personal information is a valuable tool to a criminal and you should take steps to protect it. A few basic tips are:

  • Never throw anything away that contains your personal and/or financial details, always shred them first.
  • Never throw away bank or credit cards, statements and receipts, especially those with your name and card details on, always shred them.
  • Always keep valuable documents e.g. driving licence, passport, bank statements in a safe place out of sight from others.
  • Never divulge your pin number or passwords to anyone, a bank will never ask for them.
  • Check your bank statements and report anything suspicious to your service provider.
  • Be vigilant when giving your personal details to anyone over the phone, always check that their credentials are genuine.
  • Conduct a personal credit report check on yourself, which may identify any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity.

If you are the victim of identity theft it depends on the circumstances as to whether you, the organisation involved, or both, report it to the police.

For example,

  • you have not received a credit or debit card and you were expecting one
  • you have items on your bank or credit card statement that are not yours

You should report the loss or theft of your credit or debit card to your bank immediately who will cancel them and investigate any fraudulent transactions, if necessary they will involve the police.

If you are being pursued by an organisation regarding a debt you know nothing about, it is important that you contact them directly. The Citizens Advice Bureau offer further advice around what action to take, see links in related information for details.

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