How easy would it be to steal your identity?

After stealing hundreds of identities and almost walking away with millions of pounds, two men have been jailed for six years following investigations by HM Revenue & Customs.

The two fraudsters were involved in stealing the identities and bank account details of around 900 people, and then went on to open bank accounts in these people's names. They also used the stolen identities to submit false tax claims for bogus companies they had registered.

These fraudsters are now behind bars – but if just two men managed to steal 900 identities, imagine all the other criminals out there who haven't been caught. Could they be stealing your cash or applying for loans and credit cards in your name right now? Read this Identity Theft Check-List to see if you're doing all you can to prevent identity theft.

Easy Steps To Protect Your Identity
  • Buy a shredder and shred anything with your personal details (such as name, address or signature) on it before throwing it away as fraudsters really do go through rubbish bins to steal identities
  • Keep documents such as bank statements and pay slips carefully filed and hidden out of reach
  • Think carefully about the details you reveal about yourself on the internet – even seemingly harmless information on social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook could prove a goldmine for identity theft fraudsters. For example, your "porn star name" – your first pet's name followed by your mother's maiden name – provides valuable password and security details. Don't reveal too many personal details, such as your place of work and the year of your birth. Watch your status too – "Stacey is going on holiday this weekend!" is a message to thieves that your home will be empty – and you've been kind enough to provide them with your address!
  • Never tell anyone your passwords or PIN codes, and don't write them down and leave them lying around.
  • Always shield your PIN when shopping or queuing, even if you feel embarrassed to do so, and never carry your PIN or password details in your bag with you.
  • Be aware that if you're burgled, thieves are increasingly targeting your identity too so check that all your documents, passport and driver's license are still in tact, change any passwords that may have been seen and notify your bank.
  • When shopping, never let your credit or debit cards out of your sight – they could be cloned.
  • Protect your PC with firewalls and virus protection, and make sure you stay safe online by avoiding internet fraud.
  • Always look carefully through your bank statements so you'll pick up and put a stop to fraud as soon as possible.
  • If you suspect you may have been a victim of identity theft, check your credit report.

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