Finding out that you have become a victim of identity theft can be a very unsettling prospect for victims, because it is often difficult to gauge how wide ranging the fraud may be. Knowing that someone else may be using your identity to commit illegal acts can put a lot of stress on people, because they are aware that the nasty surprises can keep on coming. If you think that you have become a victim of identity theft, then you should take certain steps to minimise the damage, such as making any relevant parties aware of the problem.
You may also want to access support from national support organisations such as actionfraud.police.uk. Here are some steps that you should take if you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft.
Contact the Police
If you have spotted an unauthorised transaction from your account you should contact your bank and the police in the first instance. The police will listen to your individual circumstances and they will advise you about how to proceed. If the police are able to take your case forwards then they will coordinate with other agencies in order to provide you with the best response. In some cases, the police may not be able to provide additional support.
If the police take on your case, make sure that you note down your crime reference number, so that you can access information about the case if you need to. The crime reference number is also used by your insurance provider if there are any circumstances where your have to make a claim on your insurance.
Making safe your accounts
It you discover that your information has been taken but you are unsure of which pieces of your information may have been compromised then you will need to get in contact with all of your creditors to alert them of the situation. Each creditor will have their own safeguards to help to protect customers who may be at risk from the effects of identity fraud, so you will have to talk through the process with each individual company. Many organisations have a special team who are dedicated to working with people who may be affected. Most creditors will alter your account numbers or send out new cards to you as soon as they can.
Obtaining your credit file
If you think that your personal information has been compromised then it is very important that you try to obtain a copy of your credit report. Your credit report will show you what credit applications have been taken out in your name, so you will be able to spot any applications which you have not authorised. Your report will also show you any checks which have been completed on your account by external companies. This can also give you a hint about what else a fraudster may have tried to use your details for.
Your full credit report can be obtained from Experian, Callcredit, Noddle, Equifax, and ClearScore. Although you can often gain temporary free access to your credit report, or access to an incomplete version of your credit report, you may have to pay a subscription to some of these companies if you want access everyday.
If you do see accounts or transactions on your account which you are not responsible for then you can get in contact with one of these agencies to discuss what options are available to you. Whilst credit agencies are meant to remove fraudulent information from your account, it can take a while to do this and you may lose out on credit opportunities in the meantime. You may also have to contact each credit agency individually to make sure that each of them removes any black marks. A note should be placed on your credit report to say that a correction has been made.
After you have spotted fraudulent events on your credit report, you should continue to monitor your credit report for another 6 months to make sure that new problems do not arise. Even if you do not think that you have been a victim of identity fraud, you should monitor your score as a falling score can indicate that something that you are not aware of is damaging your score.
If you are not expecting any mail, you may not notice that it is going missing at first, and you are more likely to notice when a particular document does not arrive with you. When you notice that mail has gone missing, then you should get in contact with the sender as soon as possible. The sender will be able to confirm to you when the documents have been posted out, what their standard delivery time normally is, and what delivery provider they use. The provider may also be able to provide you with support and advice about what they can do to monitor your account for fraudulent activities.
If the mail was supposed to be delivered by Royal Mail, you can also get in contact with them, so that they can start an investigation into what may have happened to it. At present, the best number to contact Royal Mail on is their Customer Enquiry Number, which is 08457 740 740. If you explain your situation to the customer services advisor, they will be able to redirect your enquiry to the correct department. In some cases, the mail may have simply been sent (unopened) to the Undelivered Mail centre, and it can then be redelivered to you. If you live in a block of flats or a place where mail is delivered for different groups of people, then you should notify the property manager. You may want to arrange to have a lock put on your individual mail box so that it is not possible for other people to gain access to your mail without having to break into your post box.
Fraudulent Accounts in your name
If you are able to identify an account which has been set up in your name, then you may also want to get in contact with the company which that the account has been taken out with. For example if you can see that a utility provider has an account registered in your name, but you have never had any association with that company, then you should speak to the utility provider to let them know about the problem. Whilst they may not be able to close the account immediately (due to their own safety and security features) at least you will be able to prove that you notified them that the account was not actually your responsibility.
It is possible to join the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service at www.cifas.org.uk. For a small fee, CIFAS can make sure that extra checks are done on your account before any new credit accounts are opened in your name. The fee for joining the Protective Registration is £20 for 2 years worth of membership. Although this system can mean that your genuine applications take slightly longer to process, it does mean that it is easier to prevent further fraudulent activity from taking place on your account. Although you may be worried about the cost, it is well worth adding this extra protection once you have fallen victim to one instance of identity fraud, because the fraudsters may well attempt to strike again at a later date.
Victim support groups
As identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United Kingdom, it can be reassuring to victims to find out that they are not alone. Due to the number of people who are affected by this crime, there are also a number of support groups available.
If you are unsure how to proceed after becoming the victim of identify fraud, or if you feel that your bank or building society are not meeting their obligations to you in relation to the identity theft, then you may want to talk to someone at the local branch of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB). In addition to this, there are a lot of different support groups where you can discuss your problems with others who are experiencing the same thing. The Charity Victim Support provides help and advice to people who have fallen victim to a wide range of different crimes, including those who have experienced identity theft/ identity fraud. Be aware that you need to exercise the same caution if you are using a victim support forum as you would if you were using any other type of internet forum. Although it is sad to say, some fraudsters actually visit these forums as they are aware that the users may be particularly vulnerable or more likely to share their personal information.
Whilst it is good to talk to others who are in the same position as you are, you are recommended to stay vigilant and do not share any of your personal details, even if you feel that the people who you are communicating with have become your friends.