Millions at risk from ID theft

Millions of Britons are leaving themselves open to ID theft because they don't take basic precautions against fraudsters according to research by credit reference agency Callcredit.

There are four simple steps people can take to protect their ID including shredding personal documents, checking their credit file regularly, having different passwords for financial accounts and cancelling unwanted credit facilities.

But research for Callcredit shows one in two people have never checked their credit file, one in four people don't shred documents and have credit facilities they haven't used for more than a year and one in three people use the same password or PIN more than once.

MyCallcredit director Alison Nicholson says:

"ID theft is one of the fastest growing types of fraud in the UK yet our research shows people aren't taking the necessary steps to protect themselves. We hope to be able to change that by getting the message across to consumers through the guide 'Identity Theft - Don't become a victim'.

Some of the findings are quite alarming - Yorkshire folk are the most careless with their passwords and PINs while Lancastrians are the most likely to have credit facilities they don't use.

Residents of the North East are the most conscientious shredders and Southerners are the least likely to have checked their credit file."

To help in the fight against ID thieves Callcredit is offering a free month's trial of its MyCallcredit e-alert credit monitoring service, which gives consumers an early warning of potential identity theft. To sign up for a month's free e-alert credit monitoring service visit www.myfreecreditreport.co.uk.

Key Findings
  • 50 per cent of people have never checked their credit file.
  • 27.7 per cent of Britons have a credit/debit or store card they haven't used for 12 months or more.
  • 24.2 per cent of people admit they don't shred personal documents before throwing them away.
  • 34.2 per cent of Britons use the same password or PIN for different accounts.
  • Women are more likely to shred than men, 77.2 per cent against 68.2 per cent.
  • Southerners are the least likely to have checked their credit file with 54.5 per cent admitting they have never looked at it compared to a national average of 50 per cent.
  • Midlanders are the most likely to check their credit file with 41.9 per cent saying they have looked at it in the last 12 months compared to 36.9 per cent nationally.
  • Lancastrians are the most likely to have credit facilities they don't use with 35.8 per cent saying they had a debit/credit or store card they hadn't used for a year compared to 27.7 per cent across the UK and just 17.5 per cent of Londoners.
  • North Easterners are the biggest shredders with 80 per cent saying they shred before they throw compared to 72.7 per cent nationally and just 65.4 per cent of people who live in Northern Ireland.
  • Yorkshire folk are the laziest with their PINs and passwords with 45.9 per cent admitting they use the same one more than once against 34.2 per cent across the UK and just 26.5 per cent of people in Wales.

Identity theft affects more than 100,000 people every year in the UK. It occurs when personal information is obtained by someone else without the owners knowledge and typically leads to fraud, deception, or obtaining benefits and services in the victim's name. Government estimates put the cost to the UK economy at more than £1.3bn a year.

The free leaflet is available from the consumer advice section of www.callcredit.plc.uk or via email from info@callcredit.plc.uk or by phone from 0113 244 1555.

'Identity Theft - Don't become a victim', advises that you may be at risk of becoming a victim of identity fraud if you:

  • lose or have had important documents stolen such as passports or driving licences;
  • don't receive post that you expect to, for example from a bank

Indicators that you might have had your identity stolen include:

  • items appearing on your bank or credit-card statements or your credit file that you do not recognise;
  • applying for a state benefit and being told that you are already claiming;
  • receiving bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven't asked for;
  • being refused a financial service, such as a credit card or loan, despite having a good credit history;
  • having a mobile-phone contract set up in your name without your knowledge; receiving letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren't yours.
Editors Notes
  1. Contact Jo Gill or Steve Clark on 0113 380 1644 with any queries. Out of hours 07789 007287.
  2. The research was carried out among 1069 people between 25 and 30 November 2005 by Nems market research.
  3. The leaflet 'Identity Theft - Don't become a victim' was produced by the Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee and launched by Home Office Minister Andy Burnham to announce the second phase of the public awareness campaign.
  4. Guidance to prevent identity theft is also available at www.identity-theft.org.uk. The website was launched in July 2004.
  5. The Home Office set up the Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC) to lead a cross public-private sector work programme to tackle identity theft and identity fraud and share details about new initiatives. The Committee is made up of representatives of: APACS; the Association of Chief PoliceOfficers; the British Bankers Association; CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service; the Department for Constitutional Affairs; the Department of Work and Pensions/ Jobcentre Plus; the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Finance and Leasing Association; the Financial Services Authority; HM Revenue & Customs; the Home Office and the UK Passport Service.
  6. The Identity Fraud Consumer Awareness Group is a sub-group of the IFSC. As well as representatives from the Home Office and law enforcement agencies, the group comprises members from: APACS; the British Bankers' Association; CIFAS, The UK's Fraud Prevention Service; the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Financial Services Authority; Royal Mail; the UK Passport Service and the UK's three credit reference agencies.