Identity theft is where a scammer steals someone else’s personal information to use for illegal purposes such as financial gain. It can happen when a person is alive or deceased.
How do they do this?
- Phishing – this is where the target is tricked into giving out personal information
- Hacking – this is where a scammer accesses a target’s personal information by exploiting weaknesses in a computer or mobile phone’s security
- Malware & Ransomware – Malware is where the target is tricked into installing software that allows scammers to access files and track activities. Ransomware is where the scammer demands a payment to ‘unlock’ the device.
- Fake profiles – this is where the scammer create a fake online profile on social media and sends a ‘friend request’ to the target.
What should I look out for?
- You receive an unexpected email, phone call or text message asking to ‘confirm’ personal details. This could be by speaking them over the phone or clicking on a link. Often the spelling and grammar will be poor.
- You are locked out of your devices and/or online accounts, or your profile has been signed into from an unknown location.
- You are sent unknown receipts, order confirmations, bills or invoices with your name on them.
- Money has started to unexplainedly go missing from your bank account or there are unusual transactions on your bank statements.
- Financial services, credit cards or loans that you apply for are refused.
- You are sent a friend request from a stranger on social media.
How can I protect myself?
- Update passwords regularly and choose ones that would be difficult for scammers to guess. Don’t use the same one across many sites and don’t save them on a computer or phone. Find out how to choose a strong password here.
- Always verify the identity of the caller or sender. Confirm their contact details through your own online search or calling the organisation directly.
- Do not give personal information, passwords or money to anyone you do not trust.
- Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes installed on your computer. You can use this to do a virus check in case you think your device might be infected.
- Be cautious and limit how much information is available on your social media profiles.
- Ensure that all online payments take place on a secure site. A secure site has a URL that starts with ‘https’ alongside a closed padlock.
I have been scammed. What should I do?
If you believe that a scammer has accessed your personal information or bank accounts, you need to report this immediately.
The best place to do this is with your bank. You can find the correct details for all UK banks here.
You may also want to report the theft to your local police department. Keep a note of the crime reference number in case your bank needs it.
Make sure you inform all of your friends and family what has happened. The scammer may be able to use your details to get to them.