Don’t make it easy for fraudsters! Protect yourself from identity fraud with a little help from Fellowes.
The downside of blogging is I spend far too much time worrying about the constant threat of hackers or accidently doing something to upset Google so they’ll remove me from their search rankings! Now, after researching this post, I can’t help feeling even more freaked out that someone will steal my identity, leaving me penniless and homeless! However, despite identity fraud being one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, there are plenty of things we can do as individuals and businesses to minimise our risk and protect our identities.
‘Keep it Confidential’ from Prying Eyes.
As one of the UKs leading shredder manufacturers, Fellowes recognises the importance of keeping personal information out of the hands of fraudsters by disposing of sensitive information safely and effectively. That’s why they launched the Prying Eyes Security campaign last December with its message about the importance of protecting both families and businesses from the serious risk of identity fraud.
As a mum and a blogger, I’ve become increasingly concerned about identity fraud. That’s why I’m delighted to be working with Fellowes to raise awareness of this rapidly growing crime, so families and individuals can take steps to keep their personal information away from prying eyes.
Identity fraud is on the rise.
According to the fraud prevention service Cifas, the number of victims of identity theft/fraud in the UK rose by 57% in 2015 to 148,000. Perhaps more worryingly for bloggers like myself and others who use the internet regularly, 86% of this type of fraud is perpetrated online. In fact, Cifas said last year that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a “hunting ground” for fraudsters, who can use the personal information they find on these social media platforms to piece together someone’s identity.
What is Identity fraud?
Identity fraud occurs when a fraudster pretends to be someone else in order to open bank accounts or obtain passports, driving licenses, credit cards, loans and state benefits in their name.
Fraudsters usually gain access to the victim’s personal information in order to carry out this kind of fraud. Fraudsters get hold of personal details such as name, date of birth, address and bank account details in a number of ways. Their methods of obtaining this valuable information include raiding bins, redirecting mail and making unsolicited contact. Fraudsters increasingly use online tactics too, such as ‘phishing’ for financial information via emails or by hacking computers and infecting them with viruses.
Keeping your identity safe.
Identity fraud is still a big risk today, simply because we deal with so many pieces of information on a daily basis. Research shows that more than half of UK households are careless when it comes to protecting confidential information and are unknowingly sharing their salary details, bank statements and credit information with their neighbours or strangers.
Nearly half of UK households are not taking basic precautions such as consistently shredding paper documents with personal information before discarding with many throwing away personal documents such as bank statements, bills and credit cards. The best way to dispose of sensitive information is by shredding. – Source Fellowes.co.uk
Top tips for reducing the risk of identity fraud.
1. Check your credit report regularly. Check your credit report regularly so you can see if there’s any unusual activity or if any accounts have been opened in your name. Even better, sign up for credit alerts, which will notify you if there are any changes.
2. Beware of the ‘phishing’ scams. If you receive an email from your bank, Paypal, Apple, HMRC etc inviting you to click on a link to either resolve a problem with your account or claim a gift or refund, don’t click the link. If you do, fraudsters could steal your information and gain access to your contacts! Always look at the email address carefully as it’s unlikely to be genuine. Scam emails often have incorrect email addresses, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or they may be addressed to more than one recipient. If in doubt, ring the company in question using the number you have on file.
3. Use a strong password. Fraudsters use sophisticated software systems to unlock passwords. Make your password is as obscure as possible by using symbols, numbers and upper and lower case letters to minimise the risk of it being unlocked. If you want to use the name of your child, pet or memorable place, remember to add numbers or letters to it to disguise it.
4. Be careful of sharing information online. Increasingly, fraudsters are using social media channels to gather information about their victims. Watch out for fraudulent links and scam offers and make sure you don’t share too much information personal information online. For example, never give away your address, child’s school or other personal details on social media and if you want to post pictures of your holiday, wait until you’re back home.
5. Be careful surfing the net in public. If you’re planning on accessing the internet in a public place, make sure nobody’s looking over your shoulder and don’t use public wifi networks to access online banking websites, for example.
6. Use anti-virus software. Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus protection on your computer. Fraudsters are always one step ahead but once a new virus is detected, most anti-spyware and anti-virus companies can add a protection update. If you sell your computer etc, make sure you wipe the memory clean by reformatting the hard drive.
7. Beware of ‘cold’ calls. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, utility company etc always check by calling them back on the telephone number you have for that company. Never use the same phone they called you on because they can keep that line open and put someone else on pretending they are from the bank/company. Instead, call from a different number. If in doubt, ignore it as it’s probably a scam.
8. Be careful at cash machines. Make sure the machine itself is genuine and that nothing has been added to it such as a different slot or camera. Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder at your PIN. Don’t get distracted. If someone calls your attention, ignore them or you could find yourself out of pocket.
9. Contact the bank/company if you don’t receive your statements. Someone may have hacked your account and either stopped you receiving statements or had them redirected. When you do receive statements, remember to check all your transactions, however small.
10. Redirect your mail. If you move home, make sure you have all your post redirected, before someone else does it for you.
11. Register on the electoral role. Make sure you are registered on the electoral roll at your address otherwise someone could register you at another address and receive all your post. Also, remember to de-register when you move.
12. Shred it! Never throw personal information, bank statements and photocopies of passports etc in the bin, where fraudsters can get their hands on them. Shred them – ideally using a cross-cut shredder because dedicated fraudsters have been known to painstakingly stick the bits back together.
For more information about ‘Keeping it Confidential’ from Prying Eyes, visit the Fellowes website: HERE.
It’s not secure until it’s shredded!
Shredding all confidential documents, CDs, DVDs and credit cards is vital if you want to ensure sensitive information doesn’t fall into the hands of fraudsters.
A discarded bank statement or photocopy of a passport might not seem like much but it could be enough to allow fraudsters to start building up a picture of you until they eventually have enough information to steal the identity they have recreated.
Choosing a shredder.
Not all shredders are the same. Ideally, you should invest in a good quality cross-cut shredder because fraudsters have been known to piece together straight cut paper shreds to recover personal information.
We used to have a cheap and cheerful straight-cut shredder, but we’ve replaced it with the Fellowes Powershred® 63Cb Cross-Cut Shredder which boasts
- Shreds 10 sheets per pass into 4x50mm cross-cut particles (Security Level P-3)
- Jam Blocker blocks paper jams before they start
- Patented SafeSense® Technology stops shredding when hands touch the paper entry
- Energy savings system reduces in-use energy consumption and powers down after periods of inactivity.
- 19 litre pull-out bin for easy emptying
For further information about shredders and how to choose the best shredder to suit your needs, check out the Fellowes Shredder Buying Guide: HERE.
If you think you or your businesses may have fallen victim to identity fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
If you have been a victim of fraud, you can contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice and support. Find out more at www.victimsupport.org.uk
If you have information about those committing identity crime you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Over to you.
Are you careful or careless when it comes to protecting your personal information? How do you dispose of documents, cards and CDs/DVDs containing personal details? Have you been the victim of identity fraud or have you thwarted would-be identity thieves? As always, I’d love to hear from you.
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This is a collaborative post. As always, all words and opinions are my own honest assessment.