What is identity theft?
Action Fraud: “Identity theft is when your personal details are stolen and identity fraud is when those details are used to commit fraud.”
Cambridge English Dictionary: “Identity theft is the illegal use of someone else’s personal details, for example in order to steal money from their bank account.”
How can it happen?
Identity theft is the UK’s fastest growing method used to carry out crimes, and although it mainly affects adults, it can happen to young people. When people share so much about their lives online, it gives criminals opportunity to collect information and use it to find out other personal details (eg using information they know about you to answer the secret question and change your password to be able to access your account) or to use what they do know about you to sign up for new accounts, products or services in your name. Phishing attacks, whereby contact is made by a seemingly reputable company (eg. your bank) asking you for personal information, help fraudsters as well to gather more information about someone. It is important to note that remembering a friend’s password and posing as them on social media can be a form of identity theft, which breaks the terms and conditions of the site, and is illegal in the UK.
Is identity theft against the law?
Making a fake social media account in someone else’s name usually breaks terms and conditions of the site, and it may break the law, depending on what is being said in someone else’s name. However, identity theft does break the law if someone else’s identity is being used for criminal activity, such as
- Opening bank accounts/stealing money from you
- Ordering goods in someone else’s name
- Taking out mobile phone contracts
- Taking over your existing accounts
How can I prevent identity theft?
It is important to remember your digital footprint; anything that you publicly post online could stay online forever. The more information you share about yourself online, the easier it is for a fraudster to gather personal information about you. Be careful about the pictures and information you share online – could there be a password written on a page in the background? Make sure your social media accounts are set to private and you are only sharing personal information online with people that you already know and trust offline. If you are worried about someone impersonating you online, you can report this on social media.
What can I do if it happens to me?
If you realise your bank account or your personal information is being used by someone else, you can report suspected fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. They have more information on their site - http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud_protection/identity_fraud
It is really important to also let a trusted adult know so that they can help you deal with the situation.