Identity Fraud: more than just a financial cost

Kate Beddington-Brown, Head of Communications for CIFAS - The UK's Fraud Prevention Service (which is supporting the campaign) comments: "Identity fraud is a crime with a high profile, and no wonder. With CIFAS Members identifying 65,043 victims in 2007, most individuals know someone who has been affected. Even single instances can cause very real anxiety in those affected because, once discovered, the fear of further fraud undermines an individual's sense of privacy and financial security.

"Previously, fraud was often thought of as a victimless crime, but for those whose identity has been compromised, the effects can be devastating. From discovering that your financial details have been stolen, through to the hassles experienced when trying to resolve matters, identity fraud attacks the very things that we can never put a price on: attacking not only our sense of well-being but our very names as well.

"National Identity Fraud Prevention Week provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers and also offer simple, constructive, advice on how to avoid being a victim."

There are some basic steps we can all take to help avoid our identities being compromised. Many may seem to be obvious, but it is by dropping our guard that the fraudster ultimately will benefit.

Always take particular care of your handbag or wallet. Don't give thieves a chance. Be especially careful with your credit and debit cards. Try not to keep them together or have them all with you at the same time and never let them out of your sight. Also, avoid carrying documents such as passports unless necessary and never keep in the same bag as your wallet.

Shred all documents when you dispose of them. These can range from credit card or bank statements to letters from doctors, employers and indeed anything bearing your full name and address or signature. Receipts can also be valuable to a fraudster, so take care to shred these too.

Examine your bank and credit card statements carefully. Keep all your receipts until you have checked each one individually against the statements. This will help you to monitor your account.

Check your credit reference agency file regularly for unfamiliar items and take prompt action if you spot anything strange.

Don't forget to keep your home secure, and keep your personal documents locked away. Increasingly it is these documents that are being searched for by burglars rather than TVs and computers. Theft or loss of documents such as your driving licence or passport should be notified immediately to the relevant authorities.

Use CIFAS Protective Registration if you have personal documents stolen. Either contact the service on 0870 010 2091 or download details from There is a small charge of £14.10.

Don't give your personal details to callers, charity collectors or "researchers" in the street. Check whether they are truly who they claim to be before giving them any information. Be just as careful when taking telephone calls. Fraudsters may try to dupe you into believing they are from banks or other companies. If you give them your account and security details they could run up huge debts in your name.

When buying online - keep your passwords secure at all times and change them regularly. Make sure that you have up-to-date security software, and only use sites that provide secure payments and be sure you know who you are dealing with.

Avoid online bank or shopping transactions when using public wi-fi zones or shared computers.

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