Identity Theft FAQs

Man using phone

Are you concerned that you might be vulnerable to identity theft, but aren’t sure of the signs you should be looking out for or what precautions you can take to protect yourself? Credit Angel has an FAQ page to answer common concerns about identity theft and share information to help you understand the risks of identity theft more clearly.

Can identity theft happen with a drivers licence?

Your driving licence contains a lot of information that could prove useful to someone intending to carry out identity theft and commit fraud in your name. Along with your age, date of birth and address, there’s a small copy of your signature. While the design of driving licences has been updated significantly in recent years in an attempt to combat fraud, picture counterfeiting does also still exist. Should your licence fall into the wrong hands, it could, along with additional information, be used to apply for credit in your name. With this in mind, you may want to reconsider carrying your licence around in your purse or wallet along with your other cards. If your card is lost or stolen you should report it as soon as possible. You can also ask for an extra layer or security to be added to your credit file so that any applications made in your name require an additional password.

Can identity theft affect my credit score?

If fraud committed as a result of identity theft goes undetected, it can certainly impact on your credit report and in turn your score. This can happen in a number of ways. Firstly, a fraudster may make a flurry of applications in your name, making you appear more desperate for credit and hurting your score. If some of those applications are successful, they’ll extend how many lines of credit you have open and of course, once they start spending, they’ll increase your debt levels too. All of these activities can have a negative effect on your credit score and while this should be rectifiable once discovered, it can take a lot of time and energy to restore your credit report to where it should be.

It’s common for those committing identity theft to redirect your mail, so that you’re not instantly aware of the problem. This means you don’t become aware of the crime or the impact on your credit score until you’re unexpectedly refused credit or check your report. Our credit monitoring service will update you whenever credit is applied for in your name, which could help you discover problems sooner.

How does identity theft happen online?

Online identity theft continues to evolve, with tricks used by fraudsters changing in line with technology. Theft of your identity online could be the result of your phone or computer being hacked or follow a phishing email probing you for details such as account logins.

Phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated and a communication could at first glance appear to be from an organisation or service provider you hold an account with, which is why it’s important not to click on links within emails or give personal details. Your address, birthday and even words with special meaning to you can often be mined from your social media accounts and you could unwittingly let a criminal know when your house will be empty, leaving you vulnerable to burglary.

Data breaches at organisations or companies that hold your personal data can also lead to identity theft. Criminals may use the information obtained in the breach combined with other details they can find in order to try and open credit in your name and could use any discovered passwords to gain access to other accounts where you use the same password too. With this in mind, it’s advised you don’t use the same or similar passwords across multiple accounts and if your data is subject to a breach, it’s always wise to update your password on that account and any others with the same security password immediately.

Who investigates identity theft?

You can report attempted identity theft and fraud online with Action Fraud, the UK’s crime and cyber crime reporting centre, who pass on details of different scams on to the authorities to investigate. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau is the UK’s police unit dedicated to gathering information about fraud and cyber crimes committed with financial motivation.

Can identity theft occur through Facebook or other social media tools?

Criminals use details you share on social media to build a profile of useful information about you that could help them commit identity theft. Your full name, date or birth, address and even likely passwords or security question answers could be mined from your social accounts to be used as part of a fraud attempt.

There have also been instances where people have seemingly been contacted by a friend online through a social media account and been asked to transfer funds to them due to unforeseen circumstances. These attempts at identity theft involve criminals hacking social media accounts and contacting the owner of the profile’s friends in an attempt to obtain funds fraudulently. Being cautious of what you share online and whom you share it with can help protect your identity. We can help you do this using our social media-monitoring tool.

What constitutes identity theft?

Having personal information such as your name and address or physical possessions like your credit card and ID does not in itself count as an identity theft crime being committed. However, if someone then goes on to use this information or items in order to open lines of credit in your name, for example opening credit cards or taking out a mobile phone contract, using those details or items to do this is identity theft or identity fraud.

Do identity theft prevention programmes work?

Keeping your computer security software up to date can help protect you from viruses and Trojan software that can be used to obtain information such as passwords from your computer as you use it. However, it’s still important to be vigilant online. Be mindful of what information you share on social media, look out for potential phishing emails and always make sure the security lock and ‘https’ address display in your browser when making an online purchase.

How can scammers steal my identity?

Scammers can use an arsenal of tricks and deception techniques in order to obtain information from you that can then be used to steal your identity. With just two forms of ID complete with your address, they could apply for credit in your name and then have your post redirected to prevent you from discovering the crime immediately. Here are a few of the ways scammers could try to obtain information from you with a view to committing fraud:

  • Intercepting your mail to find out details about you or checking your rubbish for correspondence.

  • Using pins and passwords obtained in data breaches to access your accounts to gain more information or withdraw funds.

  • Using fake web pages that ask you to enter your details. You may be directed to these via phishing emails or texts.

  • Unsolicited phone calls or visits to your door from individuals claiming to be working for your bank, mobile phone supplier or similar and asking for personal details such as account numbers and pins.

  • Taking information from your social media profiles to be used along with things like items of post to try and access your accounts and/or open credit in your name.

  • Faking job vacancies in order to harvest personal information from your CV. With this in mind, always verify potential employers before making applications.

Can my passport be used in an identity theft?

Like your driving licence, your passport contains key information about you and is also proof of identity that could, in combination with other items and information, be used to commit fraud. If your passport is lost or stolen you should report it as such and you could ask for an extra layer of security to be added to your credit file.

Why would someone steal my identity?

For the most part, identity theft is carried out in order to obtain money and goods. However, in some cases identity theft occurs when someone commits crime and attempts to evade punishment by assuming someone else’s identity.

Can a credit check result in identity theft?

You should of course always ensure when applying for credit that you do so with reputable companies. Credit reference agencies are responsible for keeping your credit profile secure and your information can only be accessed through security processes with your permission. If you’re currently applying for credit, such as making a mortgage application, it’s important that you don’t leave things like application forms and passports in your car or other places where they could be vulnerable to theft.

How do I know if my identity has been stolen?

Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to miss some of the warning signs that you may have been a victim of identity theft. If a bill lands on your doormat for an item you’ve not bought or you receive an emailed invoice for an unrecognised purchase or an unexpected delivery, this is a clear sign something may be amiss. As criminals frequently redirect mail to avoid their crimes being discovered you may not be alerted to the theft until you begin to find it difficult to access credit yourself or are contacted by companies chasing debts taken out in your name. Sometimes criminals will even register for benefits in your name in a different area of the country. Bins that have been tampered with can be an early warning sign that you may be a potential target for identity theft.

Should I care about my identity being stolen?

If your identity is stolen it can make lots of aspects of your life more difficult, even if this is only for a temporary period. Criminals may take money from your accounts; you may have your accounts frozen to prevent further fraud – making it hard for you to pay your way. You may also have applications for credit refused as a result of your credit profile being damaged, causing disappointment and inconvenience. Your identity is a very valuable asset, it’s unique to you and it can have an emotional as well as a financial impact when someone uses your identity.