How to prevent identity fraud

Identity fraud is the act of pretending to be someone else and using their stolen, personal information to commit crimes.

What is identity fraud?

Identity fraud is the act of pretending to be someone else and using their stolen, personal information to commit crimes.

How is your credit file used for fraud?

Whether you were tricked into giving away your information or an identity thief stole from you, fraudsters may:

  • Apply for loans and credit cards in your name – leaving you responsible for their debts.

  • Shop using your money or good credit standing – after ordering an expensive mobile phone to your home, for example, a scammer may collect it by claiming to be the courier who delivered it by mistake.

Identity fraud can make it harder for you to get a mobile phone or credit card, borrow money, rent a home, even get a job. But try not to worry as there’s plenty you can do and look out for to protect yourself.

How to protect yourself against credit file fraud

1. Check your credit report Make sure your personal details are correct: your name and address, your credit cards and loans, and the amount owed. Also, that you have opened all the accounts yourself – if there are any you don’t recognise, contact the company straight away, keeping a record of who you speak to at what time and all the emails or letters between you and the company. Have you moved home in the last 2 to 3 months? Then it’s especially important you check your credit report, in case a fraudster stole post delivered to your old address.

2. Contact a credit reference agency Call Equifax (0800 014 2955), TransUnion (0330 024 7574), Experian (0800 013 8888) or another agency with a credit report checking service that can alert you to potentially fraudulent changes made to your credit file. And if you’re a victim of identity fraud, you can ask for free advice, such as how to repair your personal credit records.

3. Notice how your bills and financial statements change Are you getting unexpected bills or debt collection letters? Charges for purchases or withdrawals you haven’t made? Have your usual bills stopped coming? Report anything suspicious to your bank or financial service provider as soon as you can and chase up missing statements. Fraudsters are sneaky. From charging £5 to your credit card – if they get away with it, they may come back for more – to changing your address so you don’t get their bills and bust their scam. Unless you keep an eye on your statements and bills, you may not realise you’re a victim of identity theft or fraud until you’re denied a loan or offered credit at higher than your usual interest rates.

How to avoid identity theft and identity fraud

Make it harder for criminals to get your sensitive information:

  • Shred your letters and bank statements – identity thieves may go through your bin, looking for your account numbers and personal information.

  • Collect your letters from your postbox as soon as you can – when you’re away, ask someone you trust to do this for you.

  • Create strong passwords and PINs that are tricky to guess (so, not your year or date of birth) – keep your accounts safe

  • Install security software on your computer and shop secure websites (starting ‘https’) – entering your information on public or library computers could put you at risk.

  • Check your social media privacy settings – be careful not to over share about yourself.

Remember, your bank will never ask you to give your financial information – your PIN or your whole security number or password – over the phone:

  • Treat unexpected or unsolicited phone calls, text messages, emails or cold-callers with suspicion, especially if they claim to be from your bank or the police.

  • Check they’re legit before giving money, account numbers, sign in details or any information – call the phone number on your bank statement to confirm their request or contact the company the potential-fraudster said they’re from.

How to report identity fraud

Act fast – the longer the problem goes on, the more debt adds up in your name, so report:

  • Scams involving your online banking, cheques or plastic cards to your bank or credit card company – they’ll investigate and report any criminal activity to the police for you.

  • A lost or stolen passport or driving licence to the government.

  • Identity fraud to the relevant company involved and contact the police if they advise you to.

Not sure who to call?

  • Scotland: Call police on 101.

  • Rest of the UK: Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or go to – the centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you’ve been a victim of identity fraud or feel a breach has made your personal data vulnerable, use Cifas’ Protective Registration service.

Who are vulnerable victims of fraud?

Seniors. If you’re worried about someone or wondering how to keep your pension, savings and information safe from scammers, please see this guide from Age UK. Sharing personal information with doctors, care givers and giving a number of other people access puts the elderly at greater risk of identity fraudsters, as does having learning or mental health difficulties (dementia) at any age.

Just so you know, Action Fraud and Age UK are responsible for their websites, technical support and any problems you have while applying these steps (not us).