6 steps to take if you think your identity has been stolen
Published August 25, 2022 2 min read
If you're a victim of identity theft, you should act as soon as possible. Follow these 6 steps if you think your data has been compromised.
With most criminal offences, you don’t need to question whether you’re a victim. With identity theft, it’s not always that simple.
Your first clue might come from an online order that you weren’t expecting, a strange charge on your bank statement, or even a notification from your bank. If you do think that your identity has been stolen, it’s important to act as soon as possible.
1. Look out for strange charges
An obvious sign that someone has assumed your identity is strange charges on your credit card or bank statement. If cybercriminals get hold of your card details, they can use them to open up online shopping accounts in your name. It’s easy to miss an unauthorised charge so take your time and contact your bank at once if anything looks suspicious.
2. File a claim
If you suspect your identity has been stolen, you should file a claim with your identity theft insurer if you have one. It could be a standalone policy, or you may have this cover as part of your home insurance. Identity theft insurance can offset any substantial costs involved or help with the legal fees that can result from identity fraud.
3. Change your passwords
Change the passwords on all your online accounts. Otherwise, the identity thieves could potentially access multiple accounts or even lock you out. Check for any unusual or unexpected logins, which could tell you there’s a problem. However, your priority should be securing all your accounts with new, complex passwords and two-factor authentication.
4. Contact your bank or lender
If you think that any of your banking cards or accounts have been compromised, contact your bank, building society or credit card provider at once. Most of them will have emergency numbers you can use to check a charge, freeze your account or cancel a card. The sooner you act, the less damage a cybercriminal can do.
5. Contact the relevant companies
If you find a suspicious purchase on your card or discover that someone has used your name to open new accounts, you’ll need to follow it up with the relevant companies. It’s important to explain the situation to them, close any accounts that were opened, and collect any relevant information before talking to the authorities.
6. Contact CIFAS
The UK’s fraud prevention service, CIFAS, is a great port of call if you’ve been affected by identity theft. They can help you to figure out if something’s a scam, tell you what your next steps are, or suggest ways to secure a refund for charges made in your name. It can be difficult to know what to do if your identity has been stolen so expert advice can make a real difference.
How to prevent identity theft
Prevention is better than cure. Protect yourself against identity theft online with a few simple but important habits.
Don’t respond to cold emails, also known as phishing. These can come in different forms but they’ll often ask you to enter your credentials or confirm your details. Often, they’ll say that your account has been hacked or create a sense of urgency to prevent you from weighing up what they’re asking.
Contact your provider directly if you have any doubts and avoid clicking on links or attachments if the email looks suspicious. These could be infected with malware that could share your personal data with hackers.
Be careful on social media. Cybercriminals can often use cloned accounts to pretend to be someone you trust so they can target you with social engineering scams. It’s a common way to get access to other people’s accounts or to find out personal information. Another way to help protect yourself is by subscribing to identity protection services, which help you better protect your identity.
The sooner you find out there’s a problem, the sooner you can start to address it. Identity theft is a problem but there are things you can do if you think you’ve been affected. The important thing is to know what to do next and how to help prevent it from happening again.
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