You may remember there being news headlines reporting a series of such illegal and unauthorised interception (also known as hacking) of databases belonging to some of UK’s major retailers and service providers, such as TalkTalk, Carphone Warehouse and British Gas, during 2015.
What does this mean? Do we stop using online facilities because of the potential risk of getting our personal and payment data exposed to online fraudsters? Or, do we take preventative steps that can help us stay protected from becoming victims of identity theft and online fraud?
Well, we think that it is important for us to understand that identity fraudsters have been found to be highly educated and intelligent people, who have the required sophistication and technical knowhow to misuse identity information of someone else for their own financial gain. However, we also know need to be aware that government bodies and specialist organisations in the field of payment technologies are bringing about stronger data security solutions, such as stronger, impenetrable digital encryption technology, so that consumers, like us, can conduct financial transactions in safer digital environments.
How you can help to prevent identity fraud? There are several steps that you can take to help prevent identity fraud from happening to you and your loved ones.
Below is a list of our suggestions:
- Recognise the signs of identity fraud: If your bank statement and/or utility bills do not arrive; or you receive bills for products and services that you know you have not signed up to; or you do not recognise transactions that appear on your bank statements; you receive letters from debt collectors or solicitors about loans that are in your name that you are sure you have never taken out; or important documents, e.g. your driving licence or passport are lost or stolen; these could all be possible indicators of identity fraud.
- Contact the authorities as soon as possible: If any of the above circumstances apply to you, then we suggest that you get in touch with your bank, the debt collector and the police to report your concerns and take necessary further steps.
- Do not give out your personal and payment details online: While this may sound obvious, we strongly suggest that you be careful in giving out your personal and payment details online. You see, for every genuine website, there may be several that are not. A genuine website belonging to a bona fide business is not likely to ask for your personal or payment details via email. They would have strong login procedures that they would have told you about when you signed up with them.
- Be sure to check that the website you are on starts its address with “https” as opposed to “http”: This is because the “s” stands for “secure”. In other words, the website has digital encryption technology to protect all data shared on it. This applies especially to when you are thinking of making purchases from a website or a social media platform.
- Look out for the golden padlock sign on websites: This should come before “https” text in the address bar of your browser and indicate that the site is secured with digital encryption.
- If you are moving house, be sure to let all the relevant parties know about your change of address: This can include your bank, your doctor, your utility providers, the TV licensing office and any credit or store credit card providers that you have accounts with.
- Monitor your credit report and credit score on a regular basis: We think it is better to shred any old documents that contain your personal and payment details, as it then becomes less likely for prying eyes to be able to decipher your data, let alone misuse it for their own financial gain.
- If you find that your credit score has dropped, in spite of you having made regular credit repayments, you may wish to check your credit report for any unrecognisable entries and your bank account for any unrecognisable transactions. In such cases, we think that it would be in your best interests to contact your bank to query all this.