Britons warned over unused credit and store cards

Millions of Britons are at risk of identity fraud because they fail to cancel credit facilities they no longer use according to the latest research from online credit report service MyCallcredit.

At the end of last year 31.5m people in the UK held an average of 2.4 personal credit and charge cards but around one in three cards is no longer active.

Callcredit director Mel Mitchley says:

"This means millions of people have stopped using a credit or store card without telling their lender, the facility is still available and a fraudster can quite easily use it to rack up debts in someone else's name without fear of early detection.

And the risk is not just with existing credit facilities, it's also with ones offered to people through direct mail. If you've been pre-approved for a credit or store card and you throw that information in the bin without shredding it you're handing a fraudster an open invitation to impersonate you and get credit in your name.

People need to take care of their ID by checking their credit file and cancelling any unused credit facilities. They also need to shred personal documents, including direct mail, before they throw it away."

How can your credit facility be hijacked?
  • If you cut up a credit card or leave it in a drawer the facility remains on your credit file until you inform the lender.
  • Credit and store cards remain live until their expiry date and are normally reissued automatically.
  • If the account is dormant a statement is not necessarily issued.
  • A fraudster can access dormant credit facilities by obtaining personal information, change the address on that facility and continue to use it without the victim's knowledge.
  • It can take many months before a victim becomes aware of ID fraud.
  • It can take a typical victim 60 hours work to prove they have been a victims of ID fraud.
  • In extreme cases it can cost £8,000 and 300 man-hours to clear your name.
How to protect yourself
  • Get a month's free trial of MyCallcredit's credit monitoring and ID fraud alert service by logging on to www.mycallcredit.co.uk.
  • Write to lenders who are listing a facility you don't want and cancel it.
  • When you cut up a card or stop using it inform the lender.

"ID fraud is one of the fastest growing types of fraud in the UK but people can protect themselves from the inconvenience and cost of being a victim by simple administration of their finances," warns Ms Mitchley.