Your information and identity are extremely valuable to criminals. If they manage to get hold of your personal details such as your address, full name, date of birth, phone number or even your bank account numbers or general credit card details, they may be able to steal your identity. This means a criminal is able to use your personal details to open new accounts, obtain loans and credit cards or even apply for benefits and important documents such as a driving licence or passport. The type of identity theft has seen a significant rise as criminals are becoming more skilled at taking advantage of weak internet signals and are able to grab information from shopping or entering details online. They are also skilled at hacking through weak passwords.

What can I do to protect against identity fraud?

With around 55% of adult internet users in the UK admitting to using the same password for almost all the websites they use online and only 60% saying they make judgements such as checking for padlock symbols before purchasing anything on the internet, it’s extremely important we take measures to protect ourselves against identity fraud and theft. There are a variety of easy, straightforward things we can all do to protect our online identity and guard ourselves against online fraud.

1. Choose strong passwords: This is basic, but it’s important. Try not to pick obvious passwords such as your name or your date of birth. The strongest passwords contain numbers, symbols, lower and upper case letters. You could pick two random words then change some of the letters to numbers.

2. Stay secure: Before you enter any payment details online, make sure the link is secure. There should always be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame and the web address should always begin with ‘https://’. This is because the s stands for ‘secure’. The padlock and ‘https://’ are usually a green colour to show the site is safe to use.

3. Check your statements: Make sure you monitor your payments for anything you don’t notice and shred all your documents before you actually bin them.

4. Avoid cold calls: If you’ve never spoken with someone on the phone before then never under any circumstances hand over any personal details or money over the phone. It’s very easy for people to pretend they’re from a bank or insurance company, but be aware that a bank will never ask for a whole password or security number or your PIN number, so hang up immediately and report them.

5. Set privacy settings: Make sure it’s not possible for the general public to view any personal information about yourself on social media networks or online in general. Revealing your information online can provide an easy way for criminals to create a profile on your identity. Remember to secure your laptop/iPads/smartphones, whatever devices you use to search and buy items online, with firewalls, regularly updated anti-virus, anti-phishing software and anti-spyware.

6. Keep your details close: It’s very easy to get ‘lazy’ with our security and common mistakes such as forgetting to cover your pin at ATM machines or writing passwords down on a piece of paper or even on the notes section of your mobile phone are just a small sample of the ways fraud can happen. The safest place to keep a password is in your head.

Remember if you’ve ever experienced fraud you should immediately report the situation to the Action Fraud group, who are the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. By taking these steps you can protect yourself against identity fraud and theft and never find yourself in that situation.