Most people are familiar with this term, but are you really sure what it means? Are you aware of the impact of identity fraud, and just how difficult it can be to recover from such an issue?
Quite recently one of our clients received a letter seeking immediate payment of an outstanding sum of over £270 on a recently commenced mobile phone contract. The letter also advised the individual of a liability for an additional £850 in contract early termination fees.
This was quite a surprise, bearing in mind that the individual had been out of the country on business for the previous 6 months! It soon became apparent that they had become a victim of identity theft. The person concerned was very surprised to have been targeted as they have always been exceptionally diligent in shredding all personal information, and safeguarding their personal details. Despite this, sufficient information had been obtained, by a fraudster to convince Vodafone, to enter into a new contract with a monthly payment of £47.00 per month for a two year term.
This does beg the question, as to whether companies undertake sufficient checks to adequately safeguard consumers. It would be interesting to know what checks Vodafone undertook, prior to setting up this new agreement.
Our client contacted the police to report the crime, but was referred to Action Fraud, who provides a central point of contact for information about fraud, and financially motivated internet crime. Contact details, including websites and phone numbers for each of the agencies mentioned in this blog, are listed below.
In the above case, the individual was requested to first contact the company concerned, to advise them that they believed they had become a victim of identity theft. A call to Vodafone via their 191 customer service line swiftly resulted in details being taken and a Fraud Case Reference Number being provided. Contact was then made with Action Fraud who also recorded the case and issued a further case reference number.
Action Fraud, and their website, is a great resource for information, to both avoid fraud, but the actions to take should you believe you have been targeted. We have previously blogged about fraudulent emails claiming to be from Banks, Building Societies, HMRC etc. The Action Fraud website includes a reporting system for such emails, to enable information to be gathered, and the perpetrators to hopefully be identified.
During the reporting process, Action Fraud recommended that our client seeks an up to date credit reference for themselves from the three principal credit reference agencies; Callcredit, Equifax and Experian. The purpose of doing so, is to ascertain whether fraudulent attempts to seek, or obtain credit have adversely affected our client’s credit rating. If so, records can be updated by these companies having recorded the identity theft with Action Fraud.
Action Fraud also suggests that individuals should register with the CIFAS, this is a not-for-profit membership association representing the private and public sectors. Their website has lots of useful information including a section ‘Help to stop identify Fraud before it happens’
Once an identity has been fraudulently obtained, it can take some considerable time for everything to come to light.
Fraudsters can use your identity details to:
- open bank accounts
- obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits
- order goods in your name
- take over your existing accounts
- take out mobile phone contracts
- obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
How long could it take for these things to come to your attention, and what damage to your reputation could be achieved along the way?
One final point, Social Media is everywhere and we all love Facebook, it’s a great way to stay in touch with family and friends, it’s also nice to receive all those birthday wishes on your birthday isn’t it? However, does your Facebook profile include your home address and your date of birth? I’ve just checked a good few of my Facebook friends and found more information than I would expect.
The full address and date of birth are two pieces of information fraudster’s use as the foundation for their activities, just one or two more pieces of the jigsaw and that’s enough. A Mother’s maiden name is very often used as a check on identity which you would imagine is quite secure.
Isn’t it great that you can share those photos on Facebook with the Grandparents or even Great Grandparents…..? So, now we have date of birth, full address and Mother’s maiden name and we haven’t left Facebook yet.
Why not check your Social Media accounts now, and if necessary, amend your location to just the town or city and at least delete the year of your birth, and maybe showing the relationship with family members may not be such a good idea.
Now for all those contact details we promised at the start of this blog:
Telephone: 0300 123 2040
CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service
Stop ID Fraud
Credit Reference Checks
Call Credit www.callcredit.co.uk