Keeping your identity safe

Credit reference agency Experian has issued advice on how to keep your identity safe from fraudsters. Identity theft is a fast-growing crime – a report from fraud prevention agency Cifas said the number of victims rose by 31% to 32,058 in the first three months of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.

So here is a reminder of some easy-to-follow advice from Experian to help keep your identity safe:

• Alert your bank: if you think you may have been affected, inform your bank that your information may have been compromised. They will advise on the appropriate next steps.

• Online passwords: if you think your information may have been compromised, change the passwords on all your online accounts, especially those to whom you have provided financial information. Create unique passwords for each site you use. Passwords should have more than eight characters (ideally 10-12). Avoid using words from the dictionary, and bear in mind that using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols can help make your password more secure.

• Inactive accounts: shut down any online accounts you don’t use. Each account contains valuable personal information that could be used to commit fraud if it got into the wrong hands.

• Emails: don’t be tempted to open emails from people you don’t know. If an email seems suspicious, contact the relevant organisation and don’t give out personal details. A reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email.

• Social websites: be sensible about the information you share. Don’t add people you don’t know and remember what you might consider to be unimportant information like your birthday, email address or location could all be misused by a fraudster.

• On the move: be smart with your smartphone, which can contain emails and apps that can be accessed without a password. Regularly clear the cache on your device, and disable auto-fill settings. Remember that public networks and open wi-fi hotspots are riskier than private networks so be conscious of what you access and remember to log out when finished.

James Jones, Head of Consumer Affairs at Experian, said: “If a fraudster applies for a loan or other type of credit using your details, a search will be recorded on your credit report and could affect your credit score. This is why many victims discover fraud after ordering a copy of their report. It’s sensible to monitor your credit report and bank statement regularly, especially if you think your identity has been stolen, as it will help you spot any suspicious activity as early as possible and limit any financial loss and the time taken to set the record straight. If you spot unusual activity on your credit report, contact your bank, any other lenders involved and Action Fraud.”

He added: “Experian also has an expert Victims of Fraud team to help people investigate and resolve fraud as quickly as possible.”

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