If a criminal gets hold of someone's personal data, such as a name, address, or bank details, they use this information to open accounts, get credit cards or apply for documents such as passports and driving licences.
Having your identity stolen can be very distressing, as well as inconvenient to put right. Victims often find that money has been removed from their bank or their account has been taken over, a fraudulent passport of driving licence has been created in their name, or loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts have been set-up using their identity.
There are a number if simple steps you can take to safeguard your personal information
Be careful who you give your personal information to... and how
- Be very cautious about giving personal information - age, address, phone number etc - to people you don't know
- In public places make sure nobody can hear your conversations or look over you shoulder when banking, shopping or making other confidential online transactions
- Be careful with the amount of personal information you share online. Only make the minimum available (your name) on interest profiles such as Facebook and LinkedIn and don't post your address or date of birth
Make it as difficult as possible to crack your personal passwords
Create strong passwords and use different ones for different accounts. For a secure password:
- use three words or more
- include a symbol and use upper and lower case letters and numbers
Remember the more complex and unique to you your password is the harder it is to crack. Also don't keep a note of passwords where they could be lost of stolen - such as in your wallet or next to your personal device.
For more information about staying safe online:
Always destroy or securely store personal documents
- Check your bank and financial statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned. When getting rid of personal documents always destroy them - rip up or shred
- If you have a communal mailbox or one on the shared area, empty it frequently
- If you move home set up a redirection with Royal Mail for at least a year and notify your bank, credit card companies and other organisations you deal with ASAP. Only 29% of British adults report redirecting their post when they move house
Don't respond to unsolicited phone calls or emails
- Fraudsters are increasingly targeting people over the telephone, posing as bank staff, police officers and other officials or companies to extract personal and financial information. Often the fraudster will claim there has been fraud on your account and that you need to take action
Your bank or the police will never:
- phone you to aske for your 4-digit car PIN or your online banking password
- ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons
- send someone to your home to collect cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book if you are a victim of fraud
If you are given any of these instructions, you're being targeted by fraudsters. Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line, or where possible use a different phone line, then call your bank or card issuer to report the fraud.
If you receive unsolicited emails never reply with your full password, login details or account details. Don't click on any links as you could end up downloading a virus (malware)
Protect your personal devices
- Protect all of your internet connected devices - computer, tablet, TV, mobile phone - by installing internet security software and ensuring that it is kept up-to-date
- Make sure access to your devices is password protected
For more information please see the Not with my name (PDF File, 1,313kb)