Tips for Avoiding Identity Fraud

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This week is National Identity Fraud Prevention week, which is a nationwide awareness campaign designed to help you protect yourself and your business from identity fraud, one of the UK’s fastest growing crimes.

You can learn more about this week’s events at the Stop Identity Fraud website. You might also want to check out these tips to help you stop becoming a victim of ID fraud:

  • Shredding – currently around 80% of us fail to make sure that our personal details are destroyed before throwing letters in the bin. With paper shredders costing from as little as £10, there’s no excuse for not destroying your old mail and receipts safely. Items you should shred include: receipts, bills, statements, unwanted post and pre-approved credit card offers. Look for a “cross cut” or confetti shredder, but don’t get tempted to throw the resulting confetti at any brides.
  • Moving home – If you move home, make sure you redirect your post through the Royal Mail, or use a service such as I Am Moving or Move Me, which will help you notify companies of your new address. This will ensure there is less chance of any of your post falling into the wrong hands.
  • Bank / Credit Card Statements – always check your statements each month to make sure there are no unusual transactions showing up. Even the smallest transaction could be fraudulent, as fraudsters often try out smaller amounts to see if they get noticed. And of course, lots of small transactions on many accounts equals a big pay day for the identity thief.
  • Internet – always try to avoid using banking sites on shared computers, such as those found in internet cafes. Keep your PC up-to-date with the latest firewall, antivirus and web browsing software, and keep on the look out for emails which try to get you to go to false websites where your login details could be stolen (”phishing“) – always type the address of your bank into the address bar of your browser. Change your online and computer passwords regularly, and of course, do not use obvious words. Use a mix of letters, numbers and punctuation if possible, and do not write your passwords down. If you’re stuck for a new password, use an online password generator. Think about the data you enter on sites where the information may be publicly available, such as “social networking” sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo – that information could be used to build up a profile of you, and can be very valuable. If you ever have to get rid of an old computer, ensure that the harddrive is wiped clean and destroyed properly.
  • Watch your post – if you live in shared accomodation, and your post is delivered where many people can get at it, there’s a chance that items could go missing. Although it’s probably difficult to prevent this, by staying vigilant, collecting your post as soon as possible and trying to ensure it is guarded until you can collect it, you can minimise the problems. When you’re sending important documents, make sure that you send them via Special or Recorded delivery, not just by the normal post.
  • Check your credit report – by checking your credit report regularly, you can make sure that no-one is illegally setting up accounts in your name, or applying for credit on your behalf.

Creative Commons License photo credit: adamjinj

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