If your ID is stolen: ten steps to take right now

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The first feeling most people get when their identity is stolen is confusion. When you are suddenly refused a loan, or you receive a demand for a loan you never took out, it's hard to appreciate that identity theft lies at the heart of your problems. Once you realise what has happened, this confusion can soon turn to panic.

Fortunately there are ten steps you can take immediately that will make a huge difference to how much impact this theft will have on your life.

1. Report it immediately to the organisation that has been fooled, and let them know you have been a victim of identity theft .This will make them responsible for investigating the fraud, and they will freeze the account in order to stop the fraudsters from running up any more debt in your name.

2. Keep a record of all conversations and copies of any letters sent or received. In some cases the debts will be cancelled immediately. In others you will have to go through a longer process of proving your innocence. Some companies, for example, will require a birth certificates and a proof of signature to show that the one they have on file is from a fraudster. Alternatively they may need proof of address to show that the one they have for you is fraudulent, or proof that you were elsewhere when card purchases were made in your name.

3. Check you have not lost any vital documents such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books. It's also worth checking whether you are coming to the end of a cheque book - which means the bank may have issued another one which went astray. Report any loss to the organisation that issued the document.

4. Report the crime to the police and get a crime reference number. They will then decide whether to launch a separate criminal investigation of their own. However, it doesn't mean you can leave everything to them - you still need to tidy up the mess left in your financial records by the fraudsters.

5. Get hold of your credit report from a credit reference agency like Experian. When you discover that one debt has been run up in your name, you may then go on to discover that the criminals have set up other loans - or made other attempt to borrow using your identity. If you get your credit report you can go through each entry and identify whether there are any more you need to sort out.
If you have paid for the CreditExpert service you can get a stolen identity check run on your accounts quickly.

6. Check your bank statements for any unexpected activity. If they have targeted your current account, you need to check it carefully to make sure you recognise every transaction. Often criminals will make a small purchase first to test the waters - so don't assume any criminal activity will be for large amounts.

7. Contact Experian. The credit reference agencies will contact lenders on your behalf where fraudulent applications have been made or credit accounts opened in your name. They will then work to restore your credit history to its former state. Experian also has a Victims of Fraud helpline who will help you through the rest of the process. If there are organisations who refuse to believe you are a victim of fraud, for example, they will help you deal with them and establish your innocence.

8.Contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry line on 08457 740 740. Commonly ID thieves will target you through the mail - either by stealing your post or by setting up a fraudulent mail redirection on your address. The Royal Mail has an investigation unit, so you should contact them and let them know this is a possibility on your address and they will look into it.

9. Contact CIFAS (the UK's Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration. This is a note on your credit record that you have been a victim of fraud in the past, which means that CIFAS members will carry out extra checks when anyone applies for a financial service, such as a loan, using your address. It may make the applications process more time-consuming when you want to borrow in future - but it will help protect you from criminals.

10. Take precautions with your personal details. The thieves are focused on finding a way to steal identities, but it doesn't mean you should make it easy for them. Keep your personal documents in a safe place at home; shred any receipts, statements or bills before you throw them away so that thieves cannot use the information on them; never give your personal details or account details to anyone else - even if they claim to be from your bank; and use different passwords for different sites so that your online accounts are not vulnerable.