Moving Matters: Identity Theft Prevention
Keeping your identity to yourself
Identity theft is a huge problem today, and your personal information is at its most vulnerable when you’re moving home. Keep your identity safe and secure and you could save yourself a great deal of distress, anxiety and money.
What is “personal information”?
The first step towards preventing identity theft is understanding what personal information is and which details should remain private. Inevitably, some of your personal details will be made public. But some elements are highly sensitive and should always be protected.
The list below shows the sensitivity of some of the most common personal information items.
- Low Sensitivity
- Full Name
- Phone Number
- Medium Sensitivity
- Date of Birth
- Mother’s Maiden Name
- High Sensitivity
- Bank Account Number
- Credit Card Number
- PIN or Password
- National Insurance Number
How is your personal information stolen?
Protecting yourself against identity theft means keeping your personal information secure. It’s therefore important to know where identity thieves can get hold of your personal information. These are the most common routes through which fraudsters can access your personal details.
Stealing your mail is one of the easiest ways for identity thieves to find out your personal information.
Ensure your mailbox is lockable if it’s in a communal area . And nothing is more tempting for fraudsters than seeing bundles of post sticking out of a mailbox. So, if you have a small mailbox and you’re going on holiday, ask a trusted relative to empty your box regularly.
When you move house, inform your bank and your credit card provider immediately. Contact the Royal Mail and arrange for your post to be re-directed to your new address.
Your computer holds a host of your personal information. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to minimise the risk of identity theft .
- If you shop online, use only sites that are trusted and secure. Most secure websites have a lock symbol at checkout.
- If you use online banking, always sign out of the site as soon as you’ve finished using it. Don’t keep the site open while you’re getting on with other things, and don’t just shut down the browser to get out of the site.
- Secure your wireless internet connection by encrypting it and creating a unique password for your router.
- Never reply to spam mail. Don’t even open it – just delete it immediately.
- Always use anti-spyware and anti-virus software.
- If you sell your computer or give it away, erase your hard drive.
It may be rubbish to you but it’s a goldmine to an identity thief. Never just throw away old bank and credit card statements, bills, invoices, communications from the tax office or anything with your National Insurance number on it. Shred them instead. Also shred ATM receipts, old cheque books, expired passports and pre-approved credit card offers. And, before you recycle used envelopes, tear off the address and shred this too.
Report missing bank and credit cards immediately
As soon as you find one of your cards is missing, cancel it straight away by contacting the issuer. Don’t wait for a few days on the off-chance you’ll find it. It’s much better to be safe than sorry. If there have been any fraudulent charges made on your card, most banks will reimburse you. But it can take time and may cause you additional stress.
Check your bank and credit card statements
It’s surprising how many people don’t do this. Check your statements as soon as they arrive. If you use online banking, check your accounts regularly. If you notice any payments you haven’t made, contact your bank immediately.
Keep your cheque book in a safe place
Your cheque book contains your name and account information so always keep it in a safe place. If you notice any missing cheques , contact your bank immediately. And remove the address slip from the front of a new cheque book.
Choose strong passwords and PINS
We need to have passwords and PINS for practically everything today! It’s extremely tempting to use the same ones that are easy to remember, such as the year of your birth. But avoid doing this at all costs. Create passwords and PINS that are difficult to guess.
Be safe in your own home
Don’t be too trusting. If you have roommates, builders in or employ a cleaner, avoid leaving your mail or cheque book out. If you’re making a phone call to your bank or credit card provider, move into an area where you can’t be overheard.