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Who’s Got your Identity?

Who’s Got your Identity?

Identify fraud is on the increase. However, by taking a few active measures the risks to expats of having their identify stolen can be rapidly reduced. Just taking the UK as an example, a quarter of UK adults have had their identity stolen or know someone who has fallen victim to some sort of ID fraud, with only one in three people confirming they use different passwords for their accounts or bother to shred bills.

As one in four report being “˜touched’ by identity fraud, it’s time for Expats to wise up to protection measures.

Identify fraud is on the increase. However, by taking a few active measures the risks to expats of having their identify stolen can be rapidly reduced. Just taking the UK as an example, a quarter of UK adults have had their identity stolen or know someone who has fallen victim to some sort of ID fraud, with only one in three people confirming they use different passwords for their accounts or bother to shred bills.

ID thieves access accounts, run up bills, launder money, carry out benefit fraud and take out fraudulent loans and it is one of the fastest-growing crimes, with criminals netting an estimated £1.3bn last year from the UK alone. Card use is particularly susceptible. A major credit card scam in Spain in November 2009 meant that anyone who used a Visa or Mastercard credit card when in Spain may have had their card data compromised. In Germany, as many as 100,000 cards were reportedly recalled. A credit card processing company was believed to be at the centre of the scam, according to Spanish police.

The fraudsters use a range of methods to steal people’s identity and expatriates are more at risk due to having to keep a range of financial information, often in different countries. Tricks the fraudsters use include sending emails containing viruses that access information on people’s computers, rooting around in refuse bins to retrieve old till receipts and bank statements to using information on deceased people.

How to protect yourself

  • Do not use your mother’s maiden name or place of birth as a security password.
  • Check your credit record at least twice yearly.
  • If you move make sure you let your bank know.
  • Shred or rip up post before throwing it in the bin.
  • Never use the same password for all your accounts.
  • Do not carry address details in your wallet.
  • Protect the identify of deceased family members
  • Be careful how you discard old computers or laptops
  • Consider Identify Theft insurance

A new website from the National Fraud Authority called Action Fraud launched in February 2010 offers an extremely good range of advice on what to do if you are, or suspect you are, a victim of fraud, along with contact details for all the organisations you would need to contact. A spokesperson for Action Fraud confirmed that they would take reports of fraud from expatriates working abroad if they have suffered a fraud committed by someone in the UK, or if their UK bank accounts, debit or credit cards have been affected as a result of an act of fraud. However, Action Fraud does advise that if this is not the case, then you should contact the appropriate regulatory or investigative authority for issues of fraud operating within the jurisdiction you are living and working in.

About the Author: Deborah Benn is a financial journalist on www.expatmoneychannel.com, a personal finance website for British expatriates.

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