Protecting Yourself From Fraud

Posted on: 5 February 2015

Identity theft is one of the key enablers of crime today due to the widespread use of digital communications. Put simply, identity theft means someone out there is using your identity for personal gain. This can be through obtaining credit in your name, using your passport details or simply hacking into your bank account. Unfortunately, it's getting easier for fraudsters to commit these crimes, so consider the following steps to keep your personal information safe and secure: 

Stay Alert Online

Internet scams are becoming ever more common, and scammers are inventing more imaginative and creative ways to force you to part with your cash. Therefore, it's imperative you stay alert whilst surfing the Internet in order to avoid becoming a victim. 

The most prevalent scams make use of "phishing," whereby the fraudsters masquerade as a legitimate company and coax you into handing over sensitive information. The majority of these scams will start with a phishing e-mail, which usually redirects to a fake website asking for your details. When screening your e-mails, always remember banks and financial institutions will never send you an e-mail asking you to confirm your details. Even if the e-mail looks genuine, you should call the company prior to giving any important details. 

The best defense against phishing is to treat your e-mail like your home address and keep it as private as possible. 

Be Alert on the Phone

Similar to the above, you should always take proper precautions when speaking to someone over the telephone. Although most calls will be genuine, it only takes one mistake to grant fraudsters entry to your bank accounts. 

One of the best ways of protecting yourself over the phone is to take a note of the person's name and number of the organization when they call you. Once you have these details, a quick Internet search will verify the validity of the telephone number, and you can call them back once you're certain they are legitimate. 

Monitor Your Credit Report

The widespread use of the Internet has made it extremely easy to monitor your credit report. All of the major credit agencies offer a monthly subscription, which allows you to log in and check your report. This makes it extremely easy to keep track of your credit history and monitor your report for any suspicious activity. 

If you do notice fraudulent activity, you should immediately contact all creditors with whom you have an account. This shouldn't be kept to only the companies affected, as you should notify all creditors of the situation so they can monitor your accounts. With banks and other financial institutions, this gives them the chance to close down all activity on the account and stop your identify from being used further. 

Forward All of Your Mail to Your New Address

This may seem like common sense, however, many people forget to forward their mail when moving house. Typically, people will change their address with their most important creditors and forget about all other mail that was being delivered to their old home. However, this is dangerous as you don't know what kind of sensitive information is appearing on your old doormat. As such, it's good practice to forward all mail to your new address for the first six months in your new property, as this will give you a chance to monitor your correspondence and change your address with all of your creditors. 

Shred All Important Documents

Shredding is often forgotten about as people make the transition from paper documents to electronic records. However, most important documents are still given in paper format and the only way to ensure your identity is safe is to shred them once no longer in use. There are many documents that are often overlooked, but can prove dangerous in the wrong hands: 

  • Company invoices. 
  • ID cards/badges. 
  • Business cards. 
  • Printed e-mails/letters. 
  • Utility bills and bank statements. 
  • Financial accounts. 
  • Mobile phone bills. 

The above list is not extensive; rather, it should be used as a guide on what to shred. As an initial step towards protecting your identity, you should gather all of your documents and go through them one-by-one, deciding what to shred and what to keep. Once you have sorted your documents, consider contacting a professional shredding service provider who will be able to ensure your sensitive information is kept safe.