This has become a growing problem in recent years, and the worrying thing is the ease with which it's possible. Criminals steal the identity of a living - or dead - person by obtaining personal documents from the dustbin, mail or when breaking into a property, then applying for bank accounts, passports, driving licence, etc in that persons name. Sometimes the first the victim knows about it, is when they notice credit card transactions on their card that they haven't made or start to get demands for payment of overdrawn accounts, traffic offences and maybe more serious crimes.
It can be very difficult and time consuming to prove innocence. To minimise your risk:
- Never give personal information or account details to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly; and
- Keep your personal documents and plastic cards in a safe place. Don't carry them unless you need to. If your plastic cards or personal documents such as passport or driving licence are lost or stolen then contact the issuing organisation immediately.
- Always cross shred documents with personal information on them, such as bank statements, utility bills, even junk mail with your address on and cut up old credit/debit cards.
- Never give your personal details to anyone you don't know who asks for them, e.g. telesales or marketing companies.
Lock away personal documents in your home and ensure your private information remains private.
In June 2006 it was made an offence under the Identity Cards Act for a person to possess or control an identity document without valid reason, which is false, improperly obtained or which relates to someone else. The Home Office has a dedicated ID theft website which is full of information. You may like to register with the Mailing Preference Service to minimise the amount of junk mail and phone calls you receive.