Adventures with Identity Theft – Prevention, and what to do if the worst happens

Click here for the last part of the story that prompted this post.

So, if you’re wondering why I’m posting details about Identity Theft, I’d suggest reading my prior posts on my own experience with having my identity stolen.

So, in terms of prevention – what can you do? please bear in mind that this information is intended for a UK audience – I have no idea how these things work in different countries.

Surprisingly, not as much as you’d think. The person who stole my identity had key pieces of information – my full name, date of birth, place of birth, full address and my bank account number and sort code. As to how they got these? Either some hackery went on somewhere, or someone who knows me very well attempted to rip me off. The level of information they had in terms of security questions points towards someone who knows me, or has access to someone who knows me. But, I guess I will never know the truth!

Still, you can be somewhat proactive.

  • Check your credit report regularly. You can get a statuary credit report for free. This will show you any searches done against your credit. There are even mobile apps these days that will let you know when your credit report has changed! Here are the relevant links:
  • Experian will allow you to add a password to your credit file, adding an extra layer of security to jump through if you ever apply for any type of credit. You will have to sign up for your free credit report through them directly.
  • Shred all documents that contain personal information before disposing of them.
  • Don’t share personal information online. Keep your accounts (facebook, etc) private where possible.
  • Be careful with any online account – set up two factor authentication, use different passwords, etc. Be aware that someone getting access to these can get all kinds of personal information just by looking at what details you filled your accounts with.
  • Treat the answers to security questions as passwords – never set up an easy to find answer!
  • Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket – I know this may not be feasible for everyone, but if you can have a ‘parachute’ account or credit card with another financial entity than your main bank, you will still have access to some funds if they opt to freeze your account for an investigation. In this case, having my credit card really helped me to continue with my every day life.

With that said, bear in mind that I did/do all the above (bar the password on my credit file), and I was still done (although the security question bullet did prevent the fraudster actually accessing their ill-gotten gains). Sometimes, even doing all you can is not enough.

If you have been done:

  • Sign up with CIFAS for protective registration.
  • Check with Royal Mail that your mail has not been redirected.
  • Get in touch with the above mentioned credit agencies, and flag anything that you don’t recognise.
  • Get in touch with Action Fraud UK, if only to get a crime reference number for something they claim is not actually a crime.
  • Change all your passwords to all the things.
  • Change any information that was compromised, if you can.
  • Check all the above mentioned sites for victim resources, should anything new pop up in the future.

And well, I guess that’s all you can really do. Bear in mind that the process is not as smooth for the victim as it really should be. You will be looked at as if you compromised the information yourself by some agencies. Until you prove your identity, you will sometimes feel like you’re being treated like a criminal. Faceless entities like an Account Review team will hold god like power over your finances, and there will be nothing you can do about it.

So, do what you can to protect your information. Check everything regularly – and stay safe out there!

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