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What is identity theft/fraud?

Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime, describes identity theft as “when your personal details are stolen”. Personal information can include name, date of birth, and current or previous addresses.

Identity fraud occurs when a stolen identity is used in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception. For example, fraudsters may use stolen identity details to: open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, order goods, apply for state benefits, or obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences.

Identity fraud can be traumatic for the victim. It may lead to personal financial loss and make it difficult for victims to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage. The extent of identity theft/fraud in the UK is difficult to measure. Some individuals may be unaware they have been a victim of crime, others may be reluctant to report the offence to the authorities. A survey conducted by the National Fraud Authority (NFA) in December 2012 found that more than a quarter of respondents have been a victim of identity crime at some point.

Signs that identity theft/fraud may have occurred

Some individuals may not be immediately aware that they have been a victim of crime. The briefing paper includes guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office on the signs that identity theft/fraud may have occurred

Reporting identity theft/fraud

Although identity theft is not a specific criminal offence, there are a number of other criminal offences which may be charged in cases of identity theft and fraud.

If someone believes they are a victim of a crime they can report it to their local police. Victims can also report identity fraud to Action Fraud using their online fraud reporting tool, or by speaking to specialist fraud advisers on 0300 123 2040. The service enables victims to both report a fraud and find help and support.

The briefing paper includes guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office on the steps to take in the event of identity theft/fraud.

How to get a copy of a credit record

The briefing paper explains how individuals can obtain a copy of their credit record from a credit reference agency to see if there has been any fraudulent activity, and how to correct a credit record.

Reducing the risk of identity theft

Finally, the briefing paper provides a range of sources of information and advice on how to protect personal information and reduce the risk of identity theft.

Documents to download

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