Sarah became a victim of identity theft in 2015. She shares her story with us below:
I would consider myself a careful person. I never give out my personal information, nor throw out my mail without shredding it first, and I always keep all of my important documents safely stored away in my home. I won’t even answer a phone call if I don’t recognize the number! Yet despite all of this, I found myself a victim of identity theft in 2015. Somebody was able to take out a sizeable loan in my name and the first I heard of it was when the company began chasing me for the loan repayments.
At the time that I became a victim, I was sharing a home with one of my daughters who was in her early twenties. I also have two others daughters, who share a home in another state. They were all really supportive of the problem when we found out that I had been targeted, but none of us could figure out how I had become a victim.
I turned my life upside down, examining who I’d given my details to, everything I had thrown out in the trash, and even the people I spent time with on a daily basis. Everybody was a suspect. It wasn’t until several months later, when I received a call from the creditor, that the awful truth came out.
Posing as me, the daughter I shared a home with had made a loan application in my name. Working in secret with my other two daughters, after the credit checks had passed, and the loan been paid out, they switched the registered address to my other daughters’ home, so that I would receive none of the paperwork. They were able to bypass all of the security questions and checks because they knew my most intimate personal details.
Eventually, the situation came to light when a fraud investigator traced a telephone number belonging to me and called my home. My daughter answered the phone, but miraculously, she handed the call over to me when the speaker asked for me by name, otherwise I may never have known!
Sarah is proof that you should always protect your personal information, even from those closest to you. We asked her to share what lessons she’d learned from the experience and she had this to say:
Monitor your Credit File
“Nobody knows your finances better than you do, so it’s essential to keep an eye on your credit file for any inconsistencies. If you spot a new account that you don’t recognise, or you notice an influx in credit searches against you, then you should immediately get in touch with the relevant company to ensure that somebody hasn’t taken out credit in your name, or is trying to do so.”
Watch your Accounts
“With telephone and online banking so readily available, it’s easier than ever to watch your accounts and budget carefully. This way, you can also see if there is any unusual activity.
If you’re suddenly in receipt of a substantial payment that has seemingly come out of nowhere, then your account may have been hijacked, where a criminal accesses your account and then siphons out the money before you have chance to notice. Because the money has been paid into your account, it becomes much harder to prove that fraud has been committed against you.”
Keep your Personal Information Secure
“I never would’ve expected to become a victim to a member of my family, but I still think it’s essential to keep your identification documents – your passport, birth certificate and so on – locked away in a safe place, where only you can find them. This reduces the chance of you becoming a victim, as it makes it much more difficult for somebody to impersonate you.
If you do have to share your identification with any person or company, for example when attending a job interview or making an application for a new credit line, you should always use copies rather than originals if you are allowed to do so, and destroy any additional copies if they are no longer required.”
Make Yourself Visible
“One of the key reasons that the company involved was able to track me down is because they were able to trace a working phone number for me, using tracing software that is available to fraud prevention teams. The data sources that this software uses are often populated using contact information that you provide on official forms, such as tenancy agreements, registration to vote and government documentation. It’s equally important to update all of your existing creditors any time you move home.”