‘’I first ignored it and then the bills kept on coming and when the unpaid invoice for a BMW came through, then it hit home!’’ Mike (not real name) talking about a 7-month ordeal to clear his name after his identity was stolen.

We have always emphasized the need for securing your home and not advertising your possessions and holidays. Another key area to protect is yourself from identity theft.

Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Here’s Mike’s story!

Mike says, they lived in a rented flat at the time in Ipswich and they were preparing to move to Croydon with family. He had a new job lined up. As with any flats, he put all his rubbish in the shared waste bins and never thought about it.

The move went well and after about 6 months, he received a bill from 3 mobile for pending payment and he ignored it thinking it was a mistake. A few days later a Vodafone bill arrive asking for payment of £1500, which again he ignored. He used to get odd debt recovery for old tenants in his old flat, so he assumed it was sent in error. 

A bill came from O2 came through after a month mentioning a new iPhone was ordered and then the big one hit home! A letter from Blackhorse Finance demanding repayment for a BMW 3 series. Mike called Blackhorse. They quickly established Mike was probably a victim of identity theft and recommended he contact the police. Then he contacted every other company that sent him a letter and established there were big contracts and new expensive items were purchased in his name. Mike says Vodafone was the most helpful and they recommended he also contact Experian and look at his credit file.

The Investigation

Experian asked Mike to open a credit account to look at all the credit accounts and identify ones he did not open. Experian also filed a report with the police.  Mike’s credit score at this point was 7/999. Anything this low is generally considered bankruptcy level. At this point, Mike and his best friend were planning to buy their first homes, next to each other and they were looking to secure mortgages. He had to drop the plan and wait for his name to be cleared.

Police came home and advised Mike his identity was definitely stolen but he hasn’t personally lost any money. In such cases, police write to all companies involved confirming Mike’s identity was stolen. He got responses from Vodafone, O2 and Blackhorse Finance confirming the debt is now cancelled. He hasn’t heard back from some others.

Turn Around

Experian advised him to join a credit improvement program – which is a paid service. He also put a Credit Lock on his credit file, again a paid service from Experian. Credit lock allows you to stop any lenders from accessing your file without you manually authorizing a payment. Over a period of a few months, his credit score bounced back to the high 900s.

He had to stay on the Experian program for 3 months and it took a total of 7 months to clear everything.

Identity Theft Data

Identity theft is a major crime in the UK and the last reported figures for 2019 show around 200,000 cases of identity theft cases in the UK and the cases are rising at an alarming rate.

According to CIFAS, The UK’s Fraud Prevention Community, Identity fraud rose by nearly 20% in 2019, accounting for the largest number of cases recorded by Cifas members at 61%. People aged over 31 were specifically targeted by this type of fraudulent conduct, with victims aged 60 and over on the rise. The highest number of victims (68%) were recorded in the South East region.

How to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft?

1.       Invest in a shredder. They cost as little as £20 quid and shred all important bills and documents before disposing them into the bin.

2.       Moving home? Make sure you update your new address with all service providers. Here’s our detailed blog on everything you must do when moving homes.

3.       Set up mail forwarding with royal mail – you can do it for up to 12 months, so you don’t miss out on any letters sent to your old address.

4.       Open a free credit check account, keep an eye on your credit accounts, credit associations and report anything suspicious.

5.       Identify theft often happen after a burglary. Secure your home with a professional alarm system.

6.       Secure your home Wifi and be careful on public wifi.

7.       Secure your passwords and avoid using the same passwords on different sites.

8.       Where possible move to digital statements instead of paper ones.

9.       Don’t respond to cold calling or emails you do not recognise.

10.   Be careful of what you share on social media.

How to Report Identity Theft?

If you think you are a victim of identity theft or at high risk, do the following immediately.

1.       Check your credit report with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion

2.       If you find suspect credit accounts, contact their fraud support teams

3.       If you receive any bills or invoices you do not recognise, contact them and confirm you did not open an account with them.

4.       Consider adding a notice of correction against any fraudulent transactions in your credit file

5.       Add a notice of correction password to protect again fraudsters opening a new account without your permission.

6.       Report to police

7.       Work through each fraudulent credit account until they are cleared your credit score is back to where it was.

Stay vigilant, stay safe!