Frauds and Scams

Identity Theft

Identity theft is when someone uses information about a person (or an organisation) to assume their identity. They will then try to obtain goods or services using that identity – for example, jewellery, electronic items, bank loans and credit cards.

There are many ways in which an identity can be assumed. Some fraudsters read formal death notices in local newspapers and seek to assume the identity of someone who has recently died, while others scour rubbish bins behind offices and shops, looking for credit card slips.

There are also cases where fraudsters set up web sites to elicit information as part of a seemingly legitimate transaction – a technique known as ‘web spoofing’.

What Can You Do?

There are a number of things you can do to reduce personal and commercial exposure to the threat of identity theft. One of the most important steps is to ensure that your staff are aware of the risks – they are the people most likely to be contacted by potential fraudsters.

Some useful tips include:

  • If someone telephones and requests personal information, be on your guard and ensure that the caller is genuine. If you are at all suspicious, ask for the caller’s name and then use a directory to find their company’s telephone number. When you call the company, ask for the person by name.
  • If you have ’Caller ID’ facilities (e.g. the 1471 telephone facility), check whether a caller has withheld their number. If yes, be wary.
  • Be careful when establishing mail redirection services; there are people who use these facilities to claim personal and corporate identities.
  • Destroy and carefully dispose of any financial or personal documents that are no longer required – for example, bank correspondence, credit card slips and insurance forms.
  • Check all of your credit card and bank statements. If you are unsure about a transaction, ask your bank to check it. If you have not received an expected statement, ask your bank why. If your bank advises that statements have been redirected to another address, make sure it understands the circumstances and takes appropriate action.
  • Be careful when performing financial transactions online. Do as much as you can beforehand to ensure that the web site is genuine; check that the company has a secure site (e.g. a closed padlock) and look for information about the security protection the company has put in place. For specific consumer advice about safe shopping online, please visit the DTI’s Consumer Direct website at
  • Check your credit rating information periodically. Such information can tell you if there are other people using your corporate or personal ID. There are two main credit reference agencies in the United Kingdom – Experian and Equifax. These agencies can advise you of your credit rating, usually for a small fee. Their web sites are also a good source of information about credit and identity fraud.

© Crown Copyright. URN 05/623; 01/05

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