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What is Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?

Identity Theft

Identity theft is when ‘an individual’s or company’s personal or confidential information is fraudulently obtained by another person without their knowledge.

There are many ways this can be done, the most commonly known being ‘bin raiding’ where the fraudster searches through rubbish for personal information.  Other methods include online, postal or telephone scams to get confidential information, and the theft of mail.

Identity Fraud

Identity Fraud is ‘when criminals use the information fraudulently to obtain credit, goods or services in that person’s or company’s name’.

( definitions)

Why Protect Your identity?

Because people can steal your identity, your money and your life if they can get hold of something as simple as a piece of paper with a name and address on it.

Think about it.  When you’ve set up a bank account all you’ve had to do is show 3 bills from your current address.  These are checked by the bank against your name.  Fraudsters can easily get hold of fake photo ID, but it’s not so easy to get hold of fake bills that can be checked.

If they can get hold of your paperwork with your name and address, they can simply get fake photo ID to match the paperwork and a bank or any other organisation requiring proof of address have no way of checking further, especially in a society where most people provide a mobile phone as a contact number rather than a landline that can be linked to a property.

The Facts

We’ve all heard about it, we’ve heard the statistics.

In October 2007 it was estimated that ‘79% of Britons continue to throw away their identities’.  The cost of it is estimated at over £1 billion per year.

In the current economic climate of a credit crunch and with banks severely being affected, we need to do as much as we can to protect our identity from being stolen or cloned. It’s often hard for people who have a lot of clutter, especially paperwork clutter, to think about how to clear the clutter and at the same time protect their identity.

When we help people with paperwork clutter we ALWAYS advise them to shred their paperwork clutter that has their address, any contact details, bank details, passwords etc on, and not in a straight cut shredder but in a cross cut shredder.

How to Prevent it

There’s lots more information on the ID Fraud website –

In summary follow the following tips:

  1. Store your household and personal documents with personal details in a safe place and report anything lost or stolen IMMEDIATELY.

  2. Shred personal documents that you’re not keeping using a CROSS-CUT SHREDDER to ensure higher security. If you have a large volume to shred, consider a shredding company such as Allshred (

  3. Make sure your post is safe – especially if you live in a block of flats or shared house.  Think about whether a lockable post-box would be sensible.  If you’re unsure, your local post office can advise you on secure posting and there are many companies that provide secure postal services such as

  4. Don’t leave personal documents in vehicles, handbags, briefcases etc.  Consider having a bum bag for your home keys and one debit card so that if your bag is stolen or you are mugged you can at least get home.

  5. Check your bank statements before the next one is issued so you can see if you have any unknown transactions (getting a receipt every time will help you check this). It’s hard to argue a transaction isn’t yours if you don’t have a receipt and several months after the purchase.

  6. Don’t use obvious passwords that people might be able to figure out if they get to know you a bit e.g. pet names, maiden names, date of birth etc.

  7. Be aware of who you are giving your information to and that they are who they say you are and check why they want it.

  8. Protect your home computer before you go on-line with anti0virus, firewall and anti-spam software.  NEVER click on a link in an e-mail from an unknown source saying you must click this link to update your details – genuine companies will never do this.

  9. Check your credit file regularly in case something has appeared on your file without you knowing.

  10. Tell all your companies if you move home – Royal Mail can redirect your mail and this is recommended for at least a year (because of seasonal post).  If you are going away for more than 3 weeks, consider their ‘Keepsafe’ service where they will keep hold of your mail until you get back.
Clutter Clearing Recommend the following shredders:
Find out more

Allshred – Secure Shredding & Recycling
CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service
Get Safe Online
Identity and Passport Service
Metropolitan Police Economic and Specialist Crime Command
Royal Mail

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