What is identity theft?

Passwords are an everyday part of online life. Almost every site requires you to create a password, a username and to give personal information about yourself. In most cases this will be to ensure your security online.

However, criminals can and will employ a variety of methods to try and get hold of these and other personal details, with the aim of amassing information to either access your accounts or to set up accounts in your name.

What can happen?

If a criminal succeeds in their objectives, you might find that they use your account to buy goods and services for themselves, or they may use your details to take out a finance arrangement in your name, without your knowledge.

Trust your instincts when people contact you online or over the phone, make sure they verify who it is you are speaking to and don't be afraid to say 'no' or to simply hang up and end the conversation without giving a reason.

Passwords & privacy

If other people are giving the same personal information on social networking sites you could feel pressured to do the same. Sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Friends Reunited, Twitter and LinkedIn are great for chatting with friends and creating social networks online. However, it can be tempting to use the same passwords for all of these sites or to create usernames that are obvious and easy to remember.

Remember that if you do this and a criminal breaks one of your passwords, they have access to everything.

You should also view the privacy settings for these websites. By making yourself aware of the privacy settings and how to use them, you can restrict access to your sensitive data like your date of birth and birth town, whilst still being able to enjoy the social network sites.

Protect yourself

Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your identity from fraudsters:


  • Protect your post, and anything you print from the internet, just like you would protect the contents of your wallet or purse
  • If you move home, make sure you use the Royal Mail redirection service
  • Read your bank statements and report transactions you don't recognise
  • Store statements, bills and confidential letters securely. Shred any personal documents you no longer need

Out and about

  • Be aware of people behind you in queues at the till or cash machine, they might be trying to see you enter your PIN, or they may be noting your card number and expiry date
  • When you hand over your card to make an in-store purchase, don't let it out of your sight. Make sure that the pin pad is secure with no additional wiring or loose casing
  • Don't use an ATM if you think it has been tampered with, and report any suspicions to the bank. Look for visible wires, loose casing or additional items that don't seem to belong
  • Keep your wallet, purse, mobile phone, organiser, house keys - any personal effects - out of sight and reach to others
  • Always shield your PIN

Online and on the phone

  • Use different PINs and passwords for each account or application, and never tell anyone what they are
  • Avoid using the 'auto-complete' option when completing online forms. The software is easy for thieves to access
  • Look out for phishing mails, which appear to come from financial institutions asking you to confirm account details. We never ask customers to confirm account details by email
  • Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails and visits to your home asking for your personal details to complete a survey or register for free services