PROTECT your identity to safeguard your cash – that’s the warning from Lancashire Constabulary as National Identity Fraud Prevention Week gets under way.
The country-wide campaign aims to alert consumers and businesses to the threat of identity fraud at home and at work.
According to research commissioned by Fellowes exclusively for the campaign, although 95% of the UK population is now aware of the threat and risks of identity fraud, the number of victims is still rising as people continue to be careless.
Around 7% of the UK population has been a victim of identity fraud, equating to over 4 million people. The average cost of these incidents to each victim is £1,190, but some individuals have lost up to £9,000.
Research shows that:
l A quarter of people do not take simple precautions, like shredding bills and bank statements before putting them in the bin.
l Some 43% of those surveyed did not verify emails or calls from organisations before responding.
l Some 46% of people would not report a lost driving licence or passport straight away.
l Encouragingly, 83% of people check for unfamiliar transactions on bills and statements, and 86% of people have security software on their computers.
Det Constable Tony McClements, Lancashire Constabulary’s fraud evaluation and liaison officer, said: “Fraudsters will glean information from dumped or lost documents and use these to steal money from you, so it is really important that you take some simple steps to prevent this from happening.
“Fraud can be under reported, so while it is important to make sure you do contact police if you think you are a victim it is even more important that you do all you can to stop it happening in the first place. The losses incurred are one thing, but recovering your previous credit rating can also be stressful, even though you are the innocent party. This can leave you unable to borrow money when you most need it.”
When it comes to identity fraud prevention is key. By following some simple steps you can help protect yourself:
l Always check for unfamiliar transactions on bank statements.
l Shred all documents containing sensitive information using a cross cut shredder before throwing them away.
l Investigate if mail goes missing.
l Carry out regular personal credit report checks
l Redirect post for at least six months when moving house.
l Limit the amount of information shared when using social networking sites
Jamey Johnson, head of Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting and advice centre, said: “Stealing an identity is just the beginning for a fraudster. With few details, accounts can be taken over, loans can be applied for and purchases can be made, all without the consent or knowledge of the individual, potentially costing the victim substantial sums of money.
“It is important to report a loss to Action Fraud, but it is more important to protect yourself from it happening in the first place. Limiting access to your personal information is the key to safety from ID fraud. Remember, personal details are as valuable as cash to a fraudster.”
l For more tips and advice on how to prevent identity fraud, visit the campaign’s website, www.stop-idfraud.co.uk. The website contains a downloadable advice pack for consumers as well as a business guide.