Five signs you're a victim of identity theft
More than 132,000 cases of identity-related fraud were recorded in the UK last year – the equivalent of 350 people falling victim every day - according to new figures from Experian CreditExpert.
With our increasing reliance on the internet to conduct our daily business that means there's more potential for us to fall victim.
Peter Turner, managing director of Experian consumer services, said: "It takes an average of 246 days to discover identity theft. That's a very long time for a fraudster to have your details without you knowing.
"Remembering the basics of online identity protection are key - simple steps such as using strong, unique passwords for each website you use and notifying service providers of your new address when you move home can all help."
He added: "The harder you can make it for fraudsters to create a victim profile with your information, the more you're protecting yourself from becoming a victim."
The credit report website has identified five key signs to look out for that may indicate your identity may have been stolen.
1. Unexpected call charges appearing on your mobile phone bill
This is a sign of account takeover, where a fraudster contacts your mobile phone operator pretending to be you, takes control of your account and makes unauthorised transactions, such as adding new devices, or SIM cards in your name.
What to do: Contact your service provider immediately, highlighting the charges that you feel do not to relate to you.
2. You receive a delivery of a new laptop/phone/TV you haven't ordered or paid for
A fraudster may have purchased something in your name, planning to intercept the delivery, but have failed to do so.
What to do: If you haven't ordered the item, don't accept the delivery.
Check the delivery docket and contact the company from which the order was made. The delivery may simply have been made in error; however, checking your credit card and bank statements will also help spot if the item has been purchased fraudulently.
3. You receive unexpected, irrelevant mail
Particularly mail that is outside of your purchasing sphere – if you don't own a car, but start receiving copies of Luxury Car Club Monthly through your letterbox, this could be an indication that something is awry and that a car has been purchased in your name.
What to do: Check your credit report for signs of unusual activity. This will help you spot if a fraudster has applied for or secured credit in your name.
4. You receive a letter or call from a debt collector or bailiff
In 2013, 641 people with whom the Experian Victims of Fraud team worked discovered they had become a victim of fraud when they received a call or letter from a debt collection company looking to recover debt in their names.
What to do: If you are sure you do not owe money to the company in question, contact the debt collector or bailiff immediately.
5. You receive a court summons
Non-payment of a bill in your name over a prolonged period of time might result in a summons being sent to you, even if you never set up a contract with that party.
What to do: You might think that since you've done nothing wrong, it's ok to ignore the summons. Don't. Contact the company or court immediately and explain the situation. The farther the situation progresses, the more difficult it can be to resolve.
A report containing detailed information on a person’s credit history, a record of an individual’s (or company’s) past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy. It also includes all applications a person has made for financial products and whether they were rejected or accepted. Your credit report can be obtained by prospective lenders to determine your creditworthiness.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.