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How to protect yourself from identity theft

Find out how you can keep your identity - and your money - safe.

31 January 2020Helen Tippell 3 min read
iPhone with passcode on blue background
Image by Neon Brand on Unsplash

Want to protect your identity?

See if your passwords have been leaked on the dark web by activating ClearScore Protect for free now.

Discover ClearScore Protect

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information, like your name, address, date of birth, or credit card number.

There are many ways a fraudster could steal your personal information, whether that’s hacking into a company database, taking it from your social media profile, or scamming you into handing it over voluntarily (known as phishing).

Once a hacker has your information, they could use it straight away or sell it on the dark web.

This is the next step on from identity theft. Once someone has your details, they can use them to buy goods and services, take out a credit card or loan and more by posing as you.

Identity theft happens when fraudsters get hold of your personal information. That can often happen because your details have been found via social media, or when you’ve accessed unsafe websites. It can also happen if you’ve thrown away post – like a utility bill or vehicle tax reminder – without shredding it first.

If you think your credit card details have been stolen, get in touch with your bank straight away. They’ll be able to let you know what the best next step is – like freezing your accounts or trying to cancel the previous transaction.

If your physical documents, like your passport or driving licence, are stolen, you should report it to the appropriate organisation. You can usually find that out with a quick Google search.

And if you spot a new account or soft or hard search on your credit report, that you don’t recognise, you can raise a dispute with the credit reference agency (CRA). At ClearScore, you can do that by going to our Help Centre and filling out the fraud form.

Luckily, there are things you can do to help protect yourself from fraud.

Use strong passwords

Whether it’s for your social media accounts, online shopping or bank account, your passwords need to be strong.

Try to make them at least 12 characters long, with a mix of upper and lower case letters, and some numbers and symbols. You can also use multi-factor authentication, to strengthen your data privacy.

Keep your phone, laptop or tablet software up to date

Check your phone, laptop and tablet for the latest software update. Updates usually contain crucial security and vulnerability fixes that help protect your devices and apps from cybercriminals.

Check your privacy settings

From Instagram to LinkedIn – check your privacy settings. Make sure you’re not sharing more information than you want to.

Think before you click

When you get e-mails and text messages, take a minute before you click on any links. Some fraudsters are pretending to be legitimate companies, and sometimes they’ll set up fake websites that look like the real thing.

Check the URLs by hovering over them before you click on anything. If there are grammatical errors or the webpage content doesn’t match up, it could be a phishing scam.

Check who’s calling you

If you don’t recognise the phone number calling you, you don’t have to answer. You can hang up, or let it ring out, and then copy the number into your web browser. That way, you can check if the number is really associated with a legitimate company.

Shred your documents

You might still get your utility bills, bank statements or other documents sent to you by post. When you’re ready to get rid of them, make sure you shred them first so that a fraudster can’t lift your details from the bin.

Redirect your post

If you’re moving house, you can redirect your post to your new address. You can do it online via Royal Mail or at your local Post Office.

Regularly checking your credit report is a great way to see what’s changed and to fix any errors if you spot them.

But, you can also activate ClearScore Protect. Every 3 months we’ll scan the dark web for stolen passwords associated with your email address and let you know if we find anything. Or, try Protect Plus for round-the-clock identity protection and fraud defence.

Helen Tippell Image

Written by Helen Tippell

Digital Copywriter

Helen's our resident Digital Copywriter. She makes personal finance easier to understand so you can be confident about your credit choices.