Every day, we trust companies and organisations with our personal information. We provide them with our name, address, phone number, national insurance number, bank details, and more. We expect this data will be safeguarded and never come into unauthorised hands.
What happens when we then get informed that the people we have trusted have suffered a data breach? We might blame our latest influx of spam emails and phone calls on it; we’ll change our passwords and probably think nothing of it again. That is, until the worst-case scenario happens. Depending on the information you provided to the company or organisation, you may have to reconsider whether spam and phishing attempts are truly the worst of your problems.
Once a hacker has access to your details, staying up-to-date with safeguarding your information is essential. The hackers may not use it immediately, or ever, for their own personal gain, but this doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.
It’s common for a hacker to sell data on the dark web to those who commit fraudulent activity. Fraudulent use of your data could cost you your most valuable asset: your identity. It’s one thing to have your bank account cleared by a fraudster, but if your identity is stolen, you may lose more than just money; you may lose everything you have ever worked for.
Your name, address, and date of birth provide enough information to create another version of you. Once the wrong person has your data and knows how to do this, they can open bank accounts, take out credit cards and loans, and even apply for state benefits in your name. To add to this, they can also rack up significant debt in your name. Once this has happened, you may lose the chance to apply for your own legal credit card, loan, or even mortgage.
This is why it’s important to take any breach of your personal information seriously. You do not want to be blissfully unaware of what’s happening and one day wake up to debt collectors knocking on your door, taking away your hard-earned possessions or the roof over your head.
Identity theft can take a long period of time to recover from, depending on how significant the damage is. However, it is possible to get your life back on track; it’s just important to know what to do if this ever happens.
Alerting your bank account and other relevant companies, such as pension schemes you’re part of, is the first thing to do. Ask them to put a freeze on your accounts and set up a fraud alert. You can also set this up on your credit score to stop any further damage.
Contact CIFAS (the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered, you should be aware that CIFAS members will carry out extra checks to see when anyone, including you, applies for a financial service, such as a loan, using your address. You must also report the loss of personal documents and any suspicious credit applications to the police and request a crime reference number.
While there are plenty of resources out there to help if you are a victim of identity theft, mitigating the risk of this happening (as soon as you’re alerted to any breach of your data) is just as important as being vigilant and proactive. Take a look at our helpful tips below (click the image to enlarge) and find out more information by reading our Data Safeguarding Tips article.