Identity theft is a terrible thing. It can cause untold trouble for victims, result in tremendous levels of stress and certainly lead to more than a few sleepless nights.

Your identity is one of your most valuable possessions and by this we mean your name, date of birth, address and other personal information such as payment card details and bank account numbers. If this information slips into the grasp of an identity thief you can lose money, find it difficult to get loans, credit cards or a mortgage.

An identity thieve can use your information to open bank accounts, take out loans and credit cards and apply for a mortgage or even state benefits… all in your name.

Are there any clear signs that suggest my identity has been stolen?

There are a number of points that indicate something may be amiss:

The first thing to consider is if you have lost a vital document such passport or driving license where do you think it might be? Was it lost or stolen? Loss doesn’t mean it is being used for identity theft but with documents of this importance they should be reported immediately.

This point to one side, strong indictors of identity theft are:
  • Mail from your bank or utility provider doesn’t arrive.
  • Items that you don’t recognise appear on your bank or credit card statement.
  • You receive bills or receipts for goods or services you haven’t asked for.
  • You are refused financial services, credit cards or a loan, despite having a good credit rating.
  • You receive letters in your name from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.
What should I do if I suspect my identity has been stolen?

You need to act quickly to ensure you’re not liable for financial losses, such as loans or credit cards that have been taken out in your name.
  • As mentioned above report all lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences and credit/debit cards as soon as possible to the relevant organisations.
  • Tell your bank, building society and credit card provider of any unusual transactions on your statement.
  • Request a copy of your credit file to check for suspicious credit applications.
  • Report the theft of personal documents and suspicious credit applications to the police and ask for a crime/information report reference number. This can be used when contacting relevant organisations.
Don’t expect much from the police; the reality is that they will unlikely take action other than pass a victim on to Action Fraud. Action Fraud uses the reports to build up fraud patterns and usually only takes immediate action if there are strong indicators as to who the fraudsters might be.

How do I avoid becoming a victim of identity theft?
  • Think before you buy online. Only use secure websites which display the company’s contact details and a clear privacy and returns policy. Make sure the address bar at the top of the page displays a padlock symbol and check the web address begins with ‘https’ and not ‘http’. Fraudsters will try and hook victims towards false web pages to extract personal information such as name, address, payment card numbers and bank details.
  • Use an identity protection service such as BullGuard Premium Protection (BPP) to protect your payment card and banking information. BPP scans hundreds of thousands dark web pages every day where stolen ID information is offered for sale. If your payment card/banking data appears on any of these pages you receive an alert enabling you take steps to protect yourself before your information is used by identity thieves.
  • BPP also protects you against malware such as banking Trojans and spyware which are designed to steal sensitive personal information.
  • Store any documents that contain your personal information in a safe and secure place. It’s also a good idea to shred or destroy old documents so that nothing showing your name, address or other personal details is lying around, or even in a bin.
  • Monitor your credit report and regularly check your credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity.
  • Remember, less is more and especially online. The less you give away about yourself the lower the risk of information falling into the wrong hands. So limit what your reveal about yourself online.