Protecting personal details Identity theft

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This article, Protecting personal details, was last updated on 30 July 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

shopping online

A few basic details can be enough for a thief to get credit in your name

In today’s world personal information is as valuable to a thief as cold hard cash once was. With a few basic details, an identity thief can get credit in your name.

Easy steal

Tom Ilube, CEO of Garlik, a company that helps consumers find out what information is held on them online explains how a popular scam works.

‘You [the criminal] go into a high-street store with some identity documentation that you’ve recreated. The sales assistant is delighted you want to buy a 42-inch screen TV and probably gives you a bonus if you get it on credit. 

'You have all the documents, so you walk out of the store with your television and a new store card.

‘Now you’ve got a store card, you go into a mobile phone shop to get a mobile phone contract. They do the credit checks and find out someone of that name who’s perfectly credit worthy.

'You provide two forms of ID and they’re happy to give you the contract.'

Claiming your identity back

Man with his head in hands

Clearing your name can be both costly and time consuming 

The hard part is clearing your name once you’ve been scammed. 

According to the credit reference agency Equifax, it takes the average victim of identity fraud 300 hours to fix their ID. During that time, it’s likely that you won’t be able to take out any additional credit. 

Worse still, some identity thieves sell on your details so you could be taken advantage of at a later date.

Falsely accused

As if the financial consequences aren’t dire enough, some people have had their reputations ruined due to identity theft. 

Many people claim to have been falsely accused of downloading child pornography during the police investigation ‘Operation Ore’. 

Operation Ore aimed to prosecute the users of child pornography websites by tracing the owners of credit cards used on the sites.

However, journalist Duncan Campbell found evidence that some of those arrested could have been the victims of credit card fraud.