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How to effectively protect your finances from criminals

Identity theft is a significant problem in the UK. Indeed, Infosecurity Magazine reports that 4.3% of the population – that’s 1.9 million Brits – had their identity stolen and used by fraudsters to open a financial account in 2023.

Your private information is incredibly powerful. You can use it to take out loans and credit cards or enter into phone contracts, although, chillingly, if someone else gets hold of your information, they could do all of these things in your name.

Falling victim to identity theft can be a distressing experience, but the good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to protect yourself. Read on to learn more about this type of crime and how to shield yourself and your loved ones from it.

Identity theft is common and can have long-term consequences

You may be surprised to read that recent figures reported by FTAdviser show identity theft is the most common method used by criminals to target your finances, surpassing bank account scams and cyber currency investment fraud.

Falling victim to this type of scam can be a scary prospect. It could hurt you financially and emotionally in the short run, and it can also have longer-term consequences.

Dealing with a stolen identity can often be a trying and time-consuming process. It may entail hours of frustrating phone calls and paperwork, and it can often feel like you’re making slow progress. Indeed, the Daily Mail reports that the average victim spends 10 hours resolving identity fraud.

Troublingly, if a criminal uses your information to take out a loan or rack up credit card debt, it could also stay on your credit history, affecting your ability to borrow.

So, taking every opportunity you can to minimise your risk of identity fraud now could support you and your family as you work towards your life goals and dreams.

Protecting your personal details can reduce your risk of identity theft

It may sound simple, but one of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to keep your personal data safe. Without access to key private details, it’s much harder for criminals to impersonate you.

Personal data that’s important to protect includes your:

  • Bank details
  • Passwords
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

You can protect your personal details in several ways:

  • Don’t use duplicate passwords and regularly change them.
  • Redirect mail when you move house.
  • Shred documents you no longer need.
  • Don’t share sensitive information on social media.

It could also be worth talking to other family members, like your spouse or children, about the importance of keeping information safe online.

Even if you diligently protect your data, criminals may still try to access it through phishing calls, texts and emails.

Reading up on trending phishing scams can help you spot them. Other ways you can protect yourself from these types of scams include:

  • If you feel pressured, take a minute to think. Talking to someone you trust about a message or call can help.
  • Ensure you’re being contacted by a genuine party. If you’re suspicious, phone the company yourself using an official customer support number.
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it’s likely to be a scam.

By being wary of potential scam messages and calls, you could keep your details out of criminals’ hands and reduce your risk of falling victim to identity fraud.

To help prevent future identity theft, you can report phishing attempts. Forward suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk and texts to 7726.

Spotting identity theft can help you limit any losses

An aspect of identity theft that can be particularly frightening is that it can easily go unnoticed.

Worryingly, if a scammer’s actions remain undetected, they may be able to use your details again to access debt or make purchases.

So, keeping an eye out for physical and digital evidence of identity fraud could help keep you and your family’s finances safe.Possible signals that your details have been used for identity theft include:

  • Documents such as utility bills not arriving when expected
  • Unrecognised debit or credit card spending
  • Being refused a loan despite having a good credit score
  • Unexplainable checks appearing on your credit report
  • Receiving unexpected legal notifications and other official letters through the post
  • Receiving receipts for items you haven’t ordered.

By spotting identity theft early, you can nip it in the bud, limiting any damage and preventing it from happening again. If you think you’ve been targeted, you could:

  • Ask your bank to withhold pending transactions
  • Change your passwords and PINs, including email and social media accounts
  • Use a credit referencing service to identify if any accounts have been opened in your name.

In a best-case scenario, you may also be able to claim back any money you’ve lost – check with your bank or credit card provider. There are no guarantees, but by acting fast you could give yourself the best chance of resolving the situation quickly and effectively.

Contact us to discuss your financial plan

Working with a financial planner could boost your financial confidence, which may help reduce your chances of being a victim of identity theft.

We can also help you to spot fraudulent investment opportunities and pension scams. Contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

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

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