How Identity Theft Happens

why it makes sense to build up your credit history

Ten Most Wanted Items on an ID Fraudster’s Wish List

It doesn’t take much to get hold of enough information to steal your identity. A stray envelope, an old catalogue, a bank statement or the contents of your wallet are just some of the way and they could provide vital information that a criminal can use to pose as you and commit identity fraud by borrowing money and running up debts in your name.

In an ideal world, an identity fraudster wants a host of useful details from your full name, date of birth and current address to the passwords and PINs on your accounts.

Here are their ten most wanted items — and some ideas that will help you to foil them.

1. A bank statement — If they’re really lucky it might indicate your overdraft limit as well as your full name, address and account number.

2. A credit card statement — This won’t contain your PIN, so they can’t use the card account in a British retailer — but it could be enough to buy from foreign websites.

3. Access to your social networking page — Where you might give away your date of birth and enough information for him or her to guess your PIN and passwords.

4. The security code on the back of your credit card — Which is used to prove you are in possession of the card when you buy online or by mail or telephone order. Fraudsters who have managed to get hold of a name, address and card data are now calling or e-mailing people pretending to be security staff and asking for the code, which frees them up to steal even larger sums in more locations.

5. Your driving licence or passport — Vital photographic ID that can be amended by an expert and used to prove that he or she is actually you.

6. The reply to a phishing e-mail — Which you’ve trustingly filled in with personal and financial information.

7. Your PINs and passwords — Essential if a criminal wants access to many of your accounts or to use your payment cards.

8. A catalogue — It may look innocuous but it could be stamped with your name, address and account number, so a thief could phone up, claim you’ve moved home and hijack your spending limit.

9. Your CV — Name, address, date of birth, employment history, marital status. Your CV contains so much information that could be used to impersonate you that some online job search services are advising people not to include so many details.

10. Online banking information — A prime target for credit-hungry fraudsters, who often set up fake websites to con genuine account holders into parting with their access data. Never click a link in an e-mail directing you to a supposed banking site — it could be a trap.

How people steal your identity…

The post is the most vulnerable area of your life where identity fraud is concerned. The crooks’ top choice of method with 66 percent of cases in 2015, is ‘present address fraud’, in which someone living at the same address — often flats with communal postal delivery areas — steals your mail. In second place, with 16 percent of cases is ‘previous address fraud’, when the criminal uses your name and a previous address to take over your identity. And 15 percent of cases involved a fraudster forwarding mail to a collection address.†

Other popular cons involve:

  • Stealing your belongings
  • Tenancy fraud, where the tenant uses the landlord’s details to borrow money
  • Jackal fraud, when the criminal uses personal details of a dead person
  • Card not present fraud — someone who has got hold of your credit or debit card details, but not the card, uses it on the Internet or over the phone

…and how to protect yourself

Regularly checking your credit report is recommended by the Home Office as an effective method of protecting yourself from identity fraud.

Your credit report is the personal history of your credit accounts, from cards, loans and mortgages to catalogue and utility accounts. It also details your repayment history and any recent applications for credit, so you can spot any unfamiliar applications or signs of unfamiliar or inexplicable debts — and stop problems before they escalate. As part of CreditExpert membership you get unlimited access to your Experian credit report.

Top tips include:

  • Shredding documents that contain your personal information – especially those on the ten most wanted list
  • Leaving important documents, such as passports and driving licences, at home in a safe place, unless you really need to carry them around
  • Redirecting your post for at least a year when you move home
  • Installing a secure mailbox if your post could be intercepted when it’s delivered
  • Cancelling unused accounts that might be hijacked by an identity thief
  • Registering to vote at your current address, so a criminal can’t register elsewhere in your name and use it as proof of residence

† Source: Experian Victims of Fraud Team 2015

Get your free Experian Credit Report & Score

Experian CreditExpert provides more than just your credit report, including:

  • Access to your Experian Credit Score
  • Personalised tips on how to improve your score
  • Dedicated, specialist help if you're a victim of fraud
  • Be alerted to certain credit report changes which could indicate potential fraudulent activity
  • Help and guidance from our UK based call centre team
Start free trial* Learn more