Yesterday I found out, by chance, that someone had been using my address to falsely obtain credit. This particular nefarious individual had clocked up a £15K debt, claiming that my home address was his. I discovered this quite by chance, as a letter from the debt collection agency arrived threatening him with a personal visit by debt collectors, and a county court judgement (CCJ).
I rang the agency, and pointed out that I had never met or heard of the individual. I confirmed with them that no CCJ would be issued against my address. Note, if that had happened that would have negatively affected my ability to raise credit or increase my mortgage in the future; adverse credit records, even incorrect ones, stick to people like chewing gum on the sole of a shoe. I followed up the call with a letter, requesting that the agency confirm in writing the key points of our conversation. The agency are now in the process of tracking down this miscreant, and extracting the £15K from him.
This incident is the third time, in eight years, that someone has succeeded in using my identity/personal details to falsely obtain credit. The previous two occasions involved the fraudulent use of my credit card. One of which apparently involved me buying several thousand pounds worth of ladies lingerie in Harrods; if you want the full story behind that one, you can read it in my book “Accountants Can Cook”.
However, identity theft is no laughing matter for those who find their credit record besmirched and their bank accounts emptied by impostors. In fact identity theft is on the increase; witness the regular stories in the newspapers of people who find that their bank accounts and credit cards have had large sums falsely extracted, or the countless “Nigerian Scam” letters (which are a ruse to get the bank account details of the greedy and stupid) clogging up peoples’ email boxes. With regard to the latter, I now receive so many of these that I have dedicated part of my website to exposing this unpleasant practice; go to Stupid Punts! to read more on the subject.
As a victim, I thought it may be helpful to list a few hints and tips gained from my own experiences. Note, as with any issues involving money you should always seek the advice of an independent suitably qualified financial adviser and/or lawyer.
In order to minimise the chances of you becoming a victim here are a few tips; note, they are not exhaustive:
Do not give out details of your bank account/credit card to strangers.
Do not disclose passwords/pin numbers.
Do not respond to “Nigerian Scam” letters.
Do not let your credit card out of your sight, even when in a restaurant and you are paying the bill (the unscrupulous can copy the card details manually and electronically).
If you lose your credit card, phone the card company immediately and cancel the card.
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly; query any amounts that do not look correct.
In the event that you are unfortunate enough to become victim to an identity theft, here are a few steps (again not exhaustive) that you should take:
Depending on the circumstances, inform the police and your insurance company.
Contact the organisation from where the money was taken/attempted to be taken immediately. Explain the issues clearly and concisely.
Confirm that any monies taken will be repaid.
Ensure that they confirm that there will be no CCJ issued against you, or your property.
Write a letter confirming the conversation, and ensure that they respond in writing.
Where the identity theft involves a credit card, or bank account, change the account and relevant passwords immediately.
Please feel free to let me know if you have had the misfortune to have had your identity falsely used.
I await the next theft of my identity!