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Protecting your Credit Cards from Identity Theft

The thought of someone stealing your identity is frightening and causes untold distress, taking from three to 48 hours of work for a typical victim to sort out their life and clear their name. If you think it can’t happen to you, think again, and take steps to prevent it in the first place.

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29 December 2008

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Protecting your Credit Cards from Identity Theft

The typical identity fraud victim is aged between 26 and 45.

If someone steals your identity, they can illegally apply for a credit card in your name and if they have your bank details they will be able to use it as if it were their own.

Who is at risk?

Almost anyone who loses their credit cards or passport or has a bank statement or other personal and financial details which fall into the wrong hands. More specifically, Experian, the credit reference agency, pinpoint London as the identity fraud capital of the UK.

Experian also analyse that the typical identity fraud victim is aged between 26 and 45. These people are amongst the highest income earners and are also homeowners. Those earning more than £50k a year are almost three times more likely than the UK average to fall victim to identity fraudsters.

If it happens to you

The first you may know of this is if you try to apply for credit and find yourself refused due to other applications that you did not make. Or, you might have been contacted by a financial company to say that the loan or card that you did not apply for has been approved.

You may also see purchases on your credit card that you did not make, or movement in your bank account that you don’t recognise. If your bank or credit card statements stop arriving the fraudster may have redirected them to their own address. This way you won’t see what they are doing with your card or your identity.

The aftermath

According to CIFAS it can typically take up to three and 48 hours to sort out the mess that identity fraud leaves. But, they state that a ‘total hijack’ can take over 200 hours and may compromise the credit status of the victim. This is without the emotional distress that this type of fraud can cause.

Contact the credit reference agencies

If you are a victim contact the three main credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and Callcredit immediately. It is also a good idea to check your credit record regularly to ensure that it is up to date and that someone isn’t trying to apply for credit in your name.

Prevention is better than cure

  • Keep your cards, passwords and PIN (personal identification number) safe. Never write your PIN down and never keep it with the card.
  • If you go to university or are living anywhere that has communal mailboxes, take steps to make sure that your personal mail will be safe.
  • If you have just moved set up a mail re-direct with the post office to ensure that your mail will get straight to you and tell your card provider and bank that you are moving.
  • Never give out your credit card details on the phone unless it is you who have called your provider.
  • Don’t reply to any unsolicited mail.
  • Don’t use public computers to access personal information
  • Check your credit card and bank statements regularly.
  • Invest in an inexpensive shredder and shred all unwanted bank statements, credit card slips and anything with your personal details.

Written by Alex Adams

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