You work hard every day in order to make a living and support yourself and/or your family. You might spend a lot of time monitoring you credit sore, to ensure that you have a clean record and can always get emergency credit if you need it. But no matter how careful you are with your money, someone else would use it differently. What would you do if someone else had somehow gained access to your bank accounts and run up thousands of pounds’ worth of debt – debt which you need to convince the bank you didn’t actually spend? Or what if they stole your identity, and now your life lies in tatters because of the actions of a criminal? In this blog, we want to explain how identity theft works and what you can do to prevent it.
Types Of Identity Theft
While the umbrella term might be ‘identity theft’, there are actually many types of crime that fall into this category. The most common is financial fraud – where a criminal obtains your bank details or money to spend for themselves. There are 25 types of financial fraud including bank fraud, credit card fraud, computer and telecoms fraud, social program fraud, tax refund fraud, mail fraud and more. Any form of fraud that includes the stealing or using of another’s money is classed as financial fraud. You also have identity theft for criminal activities, when a criminal will assume someone else’s identity in order to commit a crime, enter a country, get special permits or hide their identity. Identities are also stolen for use in organised crime, drug trafficking, alien smuggling and money laundering in order to protect the criminal’s true identity and give them a good cover story.
How It Works
Depending on the type of identity theft, a criminal actually needs very little information to start impersonating you or spending your money. Here’s a common example – you’ve received your monthly bank statement, looked over it, checked everything is ok and thrown it in the bin. That bin then gets emptied into your main bin and put out for the night. Once your main bin is emptied that bank statement travels a long way, eventually ending up in landfill. At any point, a criminal could notice it and put it in their pocket. With the information on that document, they can call your bank, pretend to be you and pretend that they have lost their card and need a new one. But they are smart – they know you will notice within 1 month if they start spending away on a cloned card. So instead they say they lost the card in a house move and give a new address for future statements. Now they can spend as much as they want and you might not notice for months. The same thing can also be achieved by infecting your computer with malware, which can allow the criminal to record your keystrokes and gain access to your credit card numbers, login details and other sensitive information they would need to clone your bank accounts or identity.
Fraudsters can use your identity details to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, loans or benefits, take over your existing accounts, take out mobile phone contracts, obtain genuine documents (like passports, drivers licenses etc.) in your name. Technically, obtaining someone’s identity does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud. It’s when that identity is used for criminal purposes that it does. The idea behind identity theft is really quite simple – gather personal information from the target, either by stealing it or tricking them into giving it to you, and use it to replicate their identity without their knowledge.
So if it’s so easy to steal someone’s identity (if you were so inclined) how can you protect yourself against it? It might sound a bit overdramatic and scary, but the reality is that 7% of the UK population (that’s 4 million) will be the victims of identity theft and fraud every year, and that number is rising all the time. To prevent against identity fraud, the answer is simple – protected your identity. Be careful to never give away personal information and shred any and all documentation that includes even one piece of the puzzle a thief might need. Your sturdy at home shredder, or local shredding company, are the ideal partner to keep your identity safe and dissuade any criminals from picking you out as their next victim. For more information or to find out more about our domestic shredding services, get in touch today for your free consultation.