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Losing Your Identity

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Imagine being chased by loan sharks for money you never borrowed. How about applying for a mortgage, only to be turned down because of debt on credit cards you know nothing about? For millions of people, this nightmare is a reality. Identity theft rose 32% over the past year, with fraudsters stealing an average 1,100 pounds from every victim - and some as much as 60,000 pound. But there are ways to protect your money and keep your credit rating squeaky clean...

1.      Check your credit report.
It takes most people over a year to realize they've been a victim of identity fraud, and by then, it's too late: bad debts in your name can make even simple loans impossible. Ordering a copy of your credit report is an easy, quick way to check there are no mystery applications for credit cards and loans - just contact an agency like Experian for your full financial rating.

2.      Set your privacy settings.
Facebook and Google mean your personal information is just a click away - but that info can be used to create fake applications
and even false ID in your name. Some online banks will let you bypass a 'forgotten' password with details like your date of birth and mother's maiden name, so make sure your settings keep personal info secret, and think twice about picking those easy security questions.

3.      Get a private mailbox.
Research from CPP shows most identity theft starts with mail tampering: either intercepting post, or setting up a forward so the Post Office sends your mail to them. People in rented flats with communal halls are most at risk, so have mail sent to a private PO box, or even just have post-boxes fitted in the hall.

4.      Shred everything.
It's easy for thieves to get all the information they need, just by rummaging in your rubbish for old bank statements and junk mail. A mini-shredder is cheap and easy to use, so there's no excuse for binning your post intact.

5.      Be
It's not just criminals: almost half of identity fraud is carried out by friends, family and neighbors. Don't leave bank statements laying around the house, and be sure to keep all important ID like passports and birth certificates locked securely away. You never know who might take advantage!


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