Almost 20m UK households are opening themselves up to fraud by failing to take precautions against identity theft, according to new research marking the UK's first-ever National Identity Fraud Prevention Week.
A 'bin raiding' exercise by MEL Research found that 77 per cent of household waste contained at least one or more items which could assist fraudsters in stealing an identity. That means more than 18m UK (out of a total of 24.5m) households are throwing away sensitive financial documents such as bank statements and utility bills that might be useful to "dumpster diving" identity fraudsters.
Although the public fear being a victim of identity fraud more than pickpocketing, mugging or even burglary, a large number still put themselves at risk by disposing of private information without first rendering it unreadable. A poll by Populus shows that 40 per cent of the public questioned rated identity fraud, one of Britain’s fastest growing crimes, as their major concern in a list of crimes that included burglary (27 per cent), mugging (21 per cent) and pickpocketing (3 per cent).
Identity Fraud Prevention Week will run from 17 - 23 October. UK police and credit reference agencies - including the Metropolitan Police, Crimestoppers, CIFAS (The UK's Fraud Prevention Service), Fellowes, Equifax and Experian - are backing the campaign with the launch of a dedicated website (echoed). They've also set up a free-phone number - 00800 1810 1810 - so that members of the public can call to receive a 'Protect Your Identity' guide.
Top tips to prevent ID fraud
- Keep your personal and confidential documents secure
- Always shred before disposing of documentation – bank and credit card statements, utility bills, receipts, direct mail containing any personal information, mortgage applications etc
- Regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for unusual transactions
- Regularly obtain a copy of your credit report from credit reference agencies Equifax or Experian
- When you move home redirect your mail to your new address by contacting Royal Mail Redirection Service on 0845 7740 740, visiting your local post office or Met Police fraud alert
- Never give out any personal information to unidentified individuals or organisations who contact you by phone, email or face-to-face
- If you have been a victim of identity fraud contact your nearest Police station or visit Met Police fraud alert
- If you have information about identity fraud contact the police, or call Crimestoppers to give information anonymously on 0800 555 111.