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Why is identity important?

Your identity is valuable. Without it, many of the things we take for granted on a day to day basis would be impossible to get. Bank accounts, passports, driving licences, mortgages and tenancies, insurance, mobile phone contracts, benefits: all of these, and many more, depend on being able to prove who you are.

Sadly, more and more fraudsters are stealing identities. This can mean pretending to be you to get new products or services, or using your details to break into and hijack your accounts.

If you, or someone you know, have found that a credit card has been taken out in your name, or that someone has withdrawn money from your account, then you already know how important your identity is. Unfortunately, it also means you're aware of identity crime.

What is identity crime?

Identity crime relies on criminals using personal details - dates of birth, financial details, passwords and so on - to get past an organisation’s security measures. There are three main forms of identity crime today.

  • Identity theft - Also known as impersonation fraud, identity theft is when a criminal uses a real person's details to impersonate them and open new accounts.
  • Identity fraud – Identity fraud is when a criminal makes up an identity - often involving forged documents - to get products or services.

  • Facility takeover fraud - Facility takeover fraud or account takeover fraud, is when a fraudster has enough details (like passwords) to bypass security on your existing accounts and take them over.

These are not victimless crimes. Fraud never is. Money lost to fraudster’s ends up increasing the cost of services, interest rates and premiums for genuine customers. Identity theft and account takeover can also be traumatic for the victim. It can be months before the fraudster's actions are discovered, and in some cases it can take just as long to sort out the mess left behind.

How can you protect yourself from identity crime?

The best protection against identity crime is prevention. Your best defence is knowing how you are vulnerable, what scams are popular with fraudsters. Visit our scams section to find out more about where and when you might be targeted and - most importantly - how to protect your identity.

Identity fraud

Identity fraud happens when fraudsters use your personal information to apply for products and services in your name, such as bank accounts, credit cards, loans and mobile phones. Many people only realise they have been a victim when they receive demands for payment or have credit applications rejected.

Anyone can be a victim

If you think fraudsters only target rich or older people, you’re wrong. In fact, young adults are one of the fastest growing age groups targeted. Because so many of our day-to-day activities take place online – such as banking, shopping, dating, chatting with friends on social media – fraudsters are finding it easier to get the personal details they need to commit identity fraud.

The most effective way to avoid becoming a victim is to protect your personal information. We don’t expect you to stop shopping, banking, socialising or dating online, but we can give you advice to help protect your identity so that your details are only used by the people and companies that you want to use them, legitimately and securely.

If you know where you are vulnerable, then you can make sure you’re on your guard:

  • Social media - Your social media profiles can be a goldmine of personal information for a fraudster, but only if you let them see it. To read more about how to use social media safely click here to visit the National Cyber Security Centre.
  • Money Mules and Phone Mules - Being tricked into or persuaded to become a money or phone mules is a particularly nasty way to scam you, because you can also end up with a criminal record. As a phone mule, fraudsters will ask you to take out mobile phone contracts for a cash payment before selling on the phones and leaving you with the monthly bill. As a money mule, you’ll be asked if you can let money ‘pass through’ your bank account in exchange for a payment.

Don’t do it - it’s illegal and you could be left facing prosecution. To read more about mule scams click here

Cifas Protective Registration

Have you ever been a victim of fraud? Has an organisation you deal with recently lost or leaked sensitive data? Have you recently lost any personal documents, or had them stolen?

Any one of these circumstances increases your risk of becoming a victim of identity fraud and you can reduce this risk by signing up for the Cifas Protective Registration reduces that risk.

How does it work?

When you request Protective Registration there is a fee of £20 which lasts 2 years. A warning flag placed against your name and other personal details in the National Fraud Database.

This tells any organisation that uses Cifas data to pay special attention when your details are used to apply for their products or services. Knowing you're at risk, they'll carry out extra checks to make sure it's really you applying, and not a fraudster using your details.

Cifas Protective Registration does not affect your credit score. It is a fraud prevention measure and not a form of insurance against losses caused by fraud.

It’s important to note that Cifas Protective Registration will not be for everyone. Cifas Protective Registration is only for people whose identities are at heightened risk. The service works by prompting Cifas members to carry out extra checks to prove your identity to prevent further fraud. This can mean that genuine applications take slightly longer to process while checks are carried out.

For more information on this you can click here or call them on 0330 100 0180.

This is not for reporting identity fraud.  It is an aid to prevent future identity fraud.  If you want to report an incident of identity fraud that's already happened:

  1. Contact your bank, or card issuer.
  2. If required report to Action Fraud online or call on 0300 123 2040.
  3. You can also report it to us by calling 101, or in an emergency 999.