Top tips for stopping identity theft
- Can't shred personal documents? There are other ways to destroy them
- Words you shouldn't use as your password
- Why moving house can make you vulnerable to ID fraud
- What to do if you become a victim of identity fraud
Don't become a victim of identity theft
Using a shredder is an easy way to make a criminal’s life harder, but for a low-tech solution you could rip up documents after defacing all personal information, or just burn them.
However, such documents aren't the only source of information for fraudsters – there are many ways in which criminals can access your details, so take all precautions.
Protect your identity
- Don't use your mother's maiden name or place of birth as a security password – they're too obvious and easy to find out. Never use the same password for more than one account.
- Check your credit file annually, especially if you've moved home within the previous 12 months.
- If you change address, pass on your new details to your bank and anyone else who sends you post – ask Royal Mail to redirect everything. Try not to carry details of your address along with your bank cards in a purse or wallet.
If identity fraud occurs
Credit card protection
Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, provided that you've acted honestly and used reasonable care, you're not liable for debts run up by a fraudster.
The most you'll pay is £50 and credit card companies often waive this, so don't bother with ID theft insurance.
If you think that your identity has already been stolen, go to www.identity-theft.org.uk for advice.
What to shred
The Home Office says that you should shred everything containing your personal information, including bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted post, old credit cards and, in some cases, CDs. Junk mail can also contain personal details, so should be shredded.
There is, of course, personal documentation that you must keep by law.
Everyone else must keep records of income and capital gains for 22 months.
Where it goes
Once you've destroyed your documents you'll have to dispose of the shreddings.
Check whether your council takes shredded paper away with household recycling. A few don't as they say that it can adversely affect the quality of recycled paper.
If your council does accept shreddings, bury them in the middle of your bin to prevent them from blowing around and put them inside an envelope or folded newspaper .
Compost your cuttings
One of the best ways to get rid of paper is to compost it.
For the perfect mix, colleagues at Which? Gardening advise that you add carbon-rich material, such as shreddings and autumn leaves, to an equal quantity of nitrogen-rich material, such as grass clippings.
But don’t add glossy paper – it doesn’t compost well.
To find out how to keep the information stored on your computer safe, watch the Which? video guide to protecting your PC from spyware.