10 min read

8 ways to protect yourself (and your passwords) against identity fraud

Hannah Salih
17 March 2017

Since it’s more important than ever to protect yourself against fraud, we’ve put together a list of 8 tips to help keep you safe.

Identity fraud happens when a fraudster finds out enough information about you that they can pretend to be you. This means they can open accounts, get hold of official documents, buy things or even take out credit in your name. All without your permission.

According to Cifas (a fraud prevention organisation) there were nearly 173,000 recorded cases of identity fraud in 2016; the highest level since records began.

So we’ve put together some tips on how to take care of your personal details and avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to fraud.

1. Make sure you protect your technology

Since many of us spend countless hours a week on tech devices, it’s important to be aware of how to protect them.

You should make sure you have anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes installed on all of your devices, and that you always keep them updated.

You should also try to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks to access online banking or other sensitive accounts, as someone could breach the security.

It’s also a good idea to keep your devices, software and apps up-to-date as these may have enhanced security features. (So no more ignoring those update notifications on your phone for weeks on end).

Check your credit report regularly to help spot the early signs of fraud

2. Use different passwords for every account and make them hard to guess

We can never stress enough the importance of your password security. It can be a bit of a headache, especially if you’re forgetful with passwords, but having a weak password can leave you really exposed to fraud.

You should never share or write down your PIN or any of your passwords. On top of this you should avoid using the same password across multiple accounts, and avoid using obvious terms such as your mother’s maiden name.

Ideally, your password should be a complex sentence, with a mix of lower and upper cases, numbers and symbols. For example, a combination such as ‘1lovemyCredit5core!’ makes the job of a fraudster much harder.

Using a random string of different types of characters is another way to create a more secure password, although these are trickier to remember.

3. Change your passwords regularly

Try and get into the habit of changing your passwords regularly – you could set an alarm on your phone to remind you. By making sure you change your passwords it means that even if someone were to discover your password, there’s less that they can do, because you’ve already moved on.

Helpful hint
One of the most important passwords to keep private and secure is your email password. If someone gets into your email there’s a chance they’ll be able to reset passwords to any other accounts you hold, whether that’s your online bank account or your Amazon account.

4. Use a password manager in your internet browser

If you have trouble remembering or thinking up complex passwords, that’s where a secure password manager can come in handy. Both Safari and Chrome have these built in and they will securely store your login details so that you can have more secure passwords without the stress of forgetting them.

If you are keeping passwords stored on your computer, setting up two-step verification makes it even more secure. This is where you use a password and then another step to gain access to your accounts, such as by getting a code sent to your phone which you use as the second step of log-in.

If you turn this on it can help protect you even if someone has your password, as you’ll be aware if someone else is trying to access your account, and they won’t have access to the second step of the verification process.

Ideally, your password should be a complex sentence, with a mix of lower and upper cases, numbers and symbols. For example, a combination such as ‘1lovemyCredit5core!’ makes the job of a fraudster much harder."

5. Your details are valuable – don’t leave them lying around

If a fraudster wants to steal your identity to defraud you, then they need to know a range of details about you. This could be financial information such as your bank account details, or even your most basic information - your name, your address and your date of birth – can leave you exposed to fraud.

Whenever you’re getting rid of any paperwork that contains personal data, make sure you shred it properly. Even things that aren’t as personal as a bank statement, such as marketing brochures, could be used by a fraudster. This is because they may still have some of your details on them, such as an address or store account number.

Make sure you’re also careful with your post. If you move house, remember to redirect your post straight away to help stop the personal information in your mail falling into the wrong hands.

6. Watch out for potential scams

It’s not always obvious that you’re being conned by a fraudster, especially if you get a call or email from someone who sounds official – like the bank or even the police.

Action Fraud advise that “No government body would ever call asking for personal bank details, offer money back on bank charges, credit card charges or mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance or to send money via Western Union."

As a rule, you should never give out your personal information to cold-callers on the phone or via email.

Always delete phishing emails and avoid clicking on any of the links. Usually, if something in your inbox looks dodgy, there’s a high chance it is.

7. Avoid oversharing on social networking sites

It can be tempting to put all of your personal information on social media. Especially if you like lots of messages on your birthday. But it’s really not worth the risk. There’s always a chance your profile can be seen by anyone, including potential fraudsters – no matter what security you have on your account.

Avoid publicly displaying details such as your email address, where you live, or your date of birth on social networking sites.

It’s also a good idea to regularly check your privacy settings on your accounts and to not befriend anyone you don’t know.

8. Keep an eye out for signs of fraud

Once you’ve done everything to protect yourself against fraud, you should always continue to keep an eye out for it. So if it does happen to you, you can nip it in the bud as quickly as possible.

Here are some things to keep an eye on

  • Check your bank statements and make sure you recognise everything on there. If you don’t, contact your bank or lender straight away. This also applies if you start to receive bank statements in the post or new credit cards that you weren’t expecting - it could be a sign someone has opened an account in your name.

  • If you’re expecting mail that doesn’t arrive – particularly if it’s from a bank or lender – there’s a chance someone has got their hands on your mail. This could be innocent, or it could be a sign of fraud. You should always check with the sender that it’s definitely been sent.

  • Your credit report is one of the quickest ways to see if someone is trying to commit identity fraud. This is because if someone is trying to take out credit in your name, a credit search will appear on your credit report. (ClearScore customers can find a list of their credit searches in the Searches section of your account). If you spot a credit search you don’t recognise, check with the named lender first then report it as quickly as possible to Action Fraud.

by Hannah Salih

Hannah reads all the finance info on the web so you don't have to. She also spends a disproportionate amount of time responding to Moose and Flearoy's fan mail.

ClearScore exists to make your finances simple.
We offer a free service where you can handle everything to do with credit in one place. In your ClearScore account, you can see your credit score and the full details of your credit report. Your credit cards, mortgages, mobile phone contracts, loans, overdrafts and utilities all on the record. Our goal is to make ClearScore as simple, calm and straightforward as possible. Money is stressful enough.