I thought it was one of those things that only happened to other people but I’ve become a victim of identity theft. Despite shredding documents and being cautious when entering personal information on the Internet someone managed to get enough information about me to change the address on my credit card and go on a £12,000 (US$20,000) spending spree! The credit card company have frozen the account and are now investigating.
Whilst you can’t guarantee to protect yourself completely you can take some sensible steps towards prevention and minimising the possible impact:
- Shred all documents using a cross-cut shredder before putting in the trash.
- Be very aware when you are entering personal information over the Internet. Is the site asking for too much information about you?
- Make use of online banking facilities to regularly check your bank and credit card statements for unusual activity.
- If you don’t receive expected statements/documents by post chase it up with the sender ASAP. This is what prompted me to contact my credit card company as I also couldn’t view my account online.
- Don’t answer security questions from cold callers even if they claim to be from your bank/credit card. Politely decline then call them back on the official customer service number. That way you know you’re speaking to someone from the company who called you.
- Check your credit history on a regular basis to ensure no one is taking credit out in your name. Sites like www.creditexpert.co.uk can provide a service where you’re notified by email or SMS if there are any changes to your credit report.