A woman entering bank card details into a phone.

A survey from Nationwide suggests that many people aren’t being as diligent at guarding their personal information as they should be, despite the number of identity theft cases doubling between 2021 and 2022. 

The poll found that 11% of women and 23% of men have had their identities stolen. Falling victim to identity fraud could cost you money, and affect your credit score and finance options, and it can go unnoticed for years.

Identity theft happens when criminals access enough of your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and address, to impersonate you. With the details, they may borrow money in your name or take over your accounts.

Scammers could also use these details to trick you into believing you’re speaking to a trusted organisation, such as your bank, to encourage you to make payments or provide further information.

Identity fraud can have a direct effect on your finances and could make it more difficult to take out a mortgage or other forms of borrowing.

£21.4 million was lost through identity theft in the first 6 months of 2022

The latest figures from UK Finance show that the amount criminals accessed through card ID fraud alone increased by 86% in the first half of 2022, to £21.4 million, when compared to a year earlier. The number of individuals affected by this type of scam also doubled over the same period. 

The Nationwide survey found two-thirds of people worry about having their identity stolen. However, there are some practical steps you can take to ease your worries and protect your identity. 

5 practical things you can do to prevent identity theft 

1. Be careful about the information you share on social media

The Nationwide survey found that many people are sharing details online that could be used to steal their identity. 

The most common pieces of information shared are full name, age or date of birth, and email address. Some people also shared their employer, job title, and pet or family names, which are often used for security questions. 

While sharing details with people you know may seem fine, almost a quarter of people haven’t made their social media account private, and 45% said they have social media friends or followers they have not met in person. So, details you believe you’re sharing with trusted people could fall into the wrong hands. 

2. Think before you enter your personal details

It’s not just social media where you need to think about who could access your details online. Whether you’re shopping online or signing up for a newsletter, think carefully about the information you’re sharing first. 

As well as the details, take some time to check who you’re giving them to, especially if a request has come out of the blue. Scammers will often pose as legitimate firms or appear genuine online. Taking just a few minutes to check credentials could prevent you falling victim to identity theft. 

3. Consider how you dispose of physical information 

You’re likely to have numerous letters and other documents that contain sensitive information too, such as bank statements. 

Before you throw anything away, glance at it to check it doesn’t contain sensitive details, like your address or date of birth. If it does, you should shred the documents before putting them in the bin for additional security. 

4. Don’t use the same password for all your accounts 

With so many accounts to manage, it can be tempting to use the same password for all. Yet, it means if a criminal accesses an account that seems unimportant, they could also access other accounts, such as your bank. 

The survey found that 35% of people use the same passwords for multiple devices. What’s more, 19% share passwords with family and friends. While sending an email that contains the password to a streaming service may seem harmless, could it also be used to steal your identity if fraudsters found it? 

5. Check your bank statement and credit report

While checking your bank statement and credit report won’t prevent identity fraud, it could mean you’re alerted much sooner if you’ve fallen victim. 

A quick review of your bank statements could highlight unusual transactions. While this is something many people do regularly, 7% admitted they never review their bank statements in the Nationwide survey. Your credit report could also show when new loans have been taken out or an account opened in your name. Around a quarter of people said they never check their credit files.

Act quickly if you think scammers have targeted you 

If you believe you’re a victim of identity fraud, you should act quickly. Contact your bank as soon as possible – in some cases, they may provide compensation if you’ve lost money. You can also contact ActionFraud to report a crime. 

If you’re worried that a financial opportunity is a scam, please get in touch. We can help identify potential red flags and help you understand how opportunities could fit into your wider financial plan.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.