A recent government survey in the UK has found that Britain has one of the highest rates of identity theft in Europe; with nearly 25% of the population having been the victim of identity fraud, in one form or another. The most common form of identity theft is having bank and credit card information stolen; through email scams, letters and phony phone calls. There are hundreds of ways that criminals are targeting our identities and few of us are taking the necessary steps to avoid identity theft; steps we really should be conscious of. Here we take a look at the risks and how to deal with them.

Knowing what constitutes a Potential Risk!

You might be able to spot a phony email a mile off or a phishing website just by reading the page but the reality is much more complex than these often simple scams. The most common cause of identity theft is online activities. Emails are sent asking for personal details or credit cards details, bogus websites offer you great deals on products or services then steal your credit card information. These are the most common complaints from victims of identity theft and are often strong sources of problems. However, many more complex scams exist like payment notifications, shipping confirmations and seemingly innocuous messages and websites that just need a few details for “verification purposes”. The online risks are more and more extensive and the best practices to dealing with them are to always remain vigilant and double check everything. When you are shopping online check with Companies House (or the countries equivalent) to ensure that the business is licensed and registered with domestic authorities. Never send payment details via email. Never share personal information with people you don’t know. If you receive emails from your bank, building society or credit cards be sure that you directly check with the company that the email is legitimate. Phone their registered number from their website rather than contacting them or responding to them via email. These simple steps will help keep you safer online.

That said we all still need to be wary of the offline risks of identity theft; which are becoming more commonplace. Letters and phone calls should always be treated suspiciously whenever we aren’t the ones making contact. These steps might be obvious but we also need to be more careful with how we dispose of information, letters and expired bank cards, credit cards and personal documents. The 2012 National identity Theft Campaign found that 47% of Britons aren’t shredding their personal documents before binning them. You might be surprised to know that identity theft through stolen personal documents is rising dramatically – so shred everything!

Taking Steps to deal with identity Fraud.

The average cost of identity fraud in the UK is around £1,700 but perhaps more worrying is how long we take to respond to, notice and deal with identity fraud issues. According to the National Identity Theft Campaign it takes an average of 7 months before people notice they are victims of identity fraud. Partly this is due to the practice of scammers to take very small amounts from their victims at a time – therefore making the payments less noticeable. The best defence against this is to actually carefully monitor your statements every month. Keep all your receipts and actually give yourself a monthly audit to check for even small discrepancies. If you see a problem, contact your bank immediately. At the same time when you are out make sure you keep your card details well hidden. Online make sure you are always vigilant against possible risks and keep records of your transactions. Fraud costs the UK economy over 1 billion pounds a year and is a serious problem; but, by protecting ourselves as much as possible, we can avoid identity theft.