What to do if your Identity is Stolen?
For many people the idea of having their identity stolen is one that fills them with dread. It is something that many people consider to mean that they will be liable for any debts that are accrued using their name - which is a valid concern - but there are a great number of people who do not take into consideration that identity theft can have on their own finances.
How can I tell if my Identity has been stolen?The first thing worth checking is your credit file which is held with any one of several Credit Reference Agencies. In the United Kingdom it is possible to obtain a copy of your personal credit history for a nominal fee and this will display any outstanding debts you have accrued yourself and will also detail how many times you have made attempts to get credit either through banking institutions or through the use of Hire Purchase agreements.
This is a good place to start and if you believe that any of the applications on your credit history are not valid - or have not been made by you - then you should contact in the first instance those companies and organisations who you have alleged made applications for credit from.
Once you have spoken to these institutions and are satisfied that you have not made applications to them you should then contact the police. Initially contacting the police is your only way of ensuring that you can remain devoid of any blame. If you fail to contact the police and any further attempts to obtain money or credit by deception occur using your detail it may appear that you are a knowing and willing participant in such endeavours.
Contact Your Bank or Building SocietyThis is high on your list of things to do if you feel that you are a victim of identity theft. Many identity thieves tend to us your details to try and obtain money or goods from other sources but if they have sufficient information then they will attempt to obtain money from your accounts.
Go through your bank and building society statements and make sure that there has been nothing removed from your account that should not have been meant to leave the account. Also if you have online banking then you should regular check your account - from your own computer at home - and ensure that your account is well maintained.
Where possible have your statements visible online. If you don't have online banking then you should request it if your account remains untouched. Otherwise if your account has had money fraudulently removed you should request that your bank or building society close that account and open a new one. This may take a few days but it will safeguard any monies left in the account.
Make Contact with all of your Household Utility ProvidersThese will include gas, electricity, mortgage, internet, telephone, satellite television and any other monthly payments you make. Explain the situation to them and inform them that all direct debits and standing orders have been cancelled and will be restarted using a different account. It is important to make contact with these organisations as quickly as you can. Likewise it is worth asking if they have received any communications from you lately concerning any changes to your details.
Have Your Computer Thoroughly CheckedIf you carry out most of your banking and household affairs via your home computer you should stop using it immediately. Have it checked out by a qualified individual who will look for signs of any programs, viruses or illegal access to your computer. If they find any signs of this ask them to document it in written form so you may pass it to the authorities. Have any damaged or suspicious hard drives removed and replaced. Also carry out regular maintenance where necessary and make back-ups of any important files such as spreadsheets.
Keep CalmPerhaps easier said than done but it is worth trying to keep calm and maintaining a level head. If you panic you may miss out on important information or miss out on vital clues as to how the identity theft has occurred.
Make notes on anything you think of which may be useful to the authorities and also make notes for your own personal use. Diarise any events or communications with banking institutions or the authorities that may be important later on.
Also make sure to keep all important documentation sent to you by those organisations you have contacted regarding the theft of your identity. The more information and documentation you can provide later on the better your chances of coming out of the experience unscathed.