Stolen Identity: What To Do
No matter what you do to prevent it, you can't entirely eliminate the possibility of identity theft. If it happens to you, it can wreak havoc on your personal finances. One in four adults in Britain have either been a victim or know someone who has, and the awareness of identity theft continues to rise. Working your way through the tangles that follows identity theft isn't easy. According to some statistics, it can take up to 300 hours of work to clear your name. But these tips can help make the journey to reclaiming yourself quicker and less stressful.
How Do You Know Your Identity Has Been Stolen?You might apply for a loan and find yourself unexpectedly rejected. There might be unusual activity in your bank accounts or on your credit cards. Possibly your credit card company might contact you, or you receive bills on accounts you've never opened. It might even be the official agency, CIFAS, getting in touch to inform you that you've become a victim. However it happens, once you know the score you need to start work immediately to fight back
First Things FirstIf you're a victim of identity theft, the very first thing to do is contact the police and make a report. Having that crime reference number is a vital preliminary step, proving to banks, credit card companies and others that you've begun to take action.
Change all the passwords on your computer. Don't use the same password for everything, and make it a mix of letters and numbers. Make sure you have a good firewall and virus protection (you can get both for free online, although make sure you do your research first). Run full scans and update your anti virus regularly - daily is best. This may prove to be bolting the stable door after the horse has gone, but it will help eliminate any repetitions.
NextContact everyone with whom you do financial business. That's not simply your bank and credit card companies, but all your direct debits, loans and creditors. Contact them in writing, quoting your crime reference number. Keep copies of all your correspondence, along with careful notes of all conversations on the matter (include time and date). Cancel your credit cards, changing account numbers, and the same applies to your bank accounts.
You also need to write to the credit reference agencies. Request a copy of your credit file (it costs £2), and challenge all items that don't seem correct. Inform them that you've been a victim of identity theft and have a fraud alert placed on your account.
You can check the status of your credit rating with any one of a number of Credit Reference Agencies.
It's possible that whoever stole your identity has committed crimes whilst posing as you. When contacting the police, have them check your criminal record and see that any false convictions are erased. This may involve being photographed or fingerprinted and possibly hiring an attorney, but it's worth the effort. Additionally, contact the Passport Service and the DVLA.
If you suspect you're not receiving your post, make sure you're in touch with the Royal Mail. They have a unit to investigate suspected mail theft and can check to see if a redirection order has been placed on your address.
You should also register with CIFAS Protective Registration Service. You can place a registration with the not-for-profit on your own address when you have reason to believe you're a victim of fraud.
A number of other groups have help guide you through the maze.