Don't make it easy for fraudsters

Stolen handbag reveals more problems than first thought

My daughter’s friend Lindsey was down for the weekend when I overheard her say: “When I got my handbag stolen it cost me a fortune to get new car keys cut, but I didn manage to get my driving licence back.”

Alarm bells started ringing. “So I take it that you are now a fully signed up member of CIFAS?” I asked.

Depressingly, Lindsey had never heard of CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service.

All of us need our identity in order to function in everyday life. So in someone else’s hands, your identity is worth a lot of money with fraudsters able to use it to obtain credit as well as services or products.

Although Lindsey reported her stolen bag to the police, she was not told about the risk of someone cloning her identity and using her personal details to take out credit or services.

They could even be used to hijack her current account and empty it of funds.

A fraudster can do this by using the information on such documents as bank statements, passports and driving licences. Although Lindsey’s driving licence was returned, it could have been photocopied - enabling someone else to assume her identity.

Identity theft is the fastest growing type of fraud in the UK so, in 1988, the major lenders in the UK consumer credit industry decided to form a non-profit making membership association solely dedicated to the prevention of financial crime – CIFAS.

It was set up to detect and prevent fraud and so safeguard innocent people whose names, addresses or other details are used fraudulently by others in order to get credit. For an annual registration fee of £14.10, CIFAS offers a service to protect your name and personal details from being misused in this way.

A CIFAS warning against your name means that its members, such as banks, will carry out additional checks when applications are made in your name. This ensures that the innocent victim does not find themselves being chased for money they do not owe.

The downside of this is that you will be subject to stricter identity tests when you apply for credit, such as a mortgage. It won’t count against you but you will need to be prepared for this.

You should also consider registering the name of a deceased relative, if you believe that their identity could be used by a fraudster to obtain credit or other products and services in the future.

Anyone who has lost or had identification documents stolen are potentially at risk of being cloned. Someone may already be using your identity without you knowing it.

The best way to fight fraud is to make it as hard as possible for criminals – click here for more on protecting yourself.

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