Fake current account applications soar
Written on 10 February 2016
The number of fraudulent current account applications – where identity thieves steal your personal information to open a bank account - has rocketed, according to figures from credit checking company Experian. In December last year 156 in every 10,000 applications were fake, up from 73 in every 10,000 at the start of the year.
Bank account fraud is particularly attractive for thieves as it not only allows them to rack up an overdraft on the account but also means they can apply for other related products such as credit cards and loans.
Credit card and insurance policy fraud also increased substantially over the course of the year, according to Experian. But Nick Mothershaw at Experian says that current account fraud really came to the fore in 2015, with identity thieves being the chief culprits.
“The positive side to this is that these numbers represent detected and prevented fraud attempts, demonstrating the robustness of the protection systems in place for financial products.
“While it is clear that the systems are working, both companies and consumers need to remain vigilant to the evolving tactics of fraudsters which become more sophisticated with each passing day,” he says.
How to spot the signs of identity fraud
There are some tell-tale signs that you might have become the victim of identity fraud. For example, you might be unexpectedly turned down for credit or you might be contacted by a lender or debt collection agency about an account you didn’t open. Always keep an eye on your post. If bank statements you expect to arrive don’t or a bank card you’ve ordered doesn’t turn up, this could be a clue that your post has been intercepted.
Ways to protect yourself
Experian suggests taking the following steps to avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud.
- Always shred or destroy documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
- Never respond to cold phone calls or e-mails asking for account details, PINs, passwords or personal information.
- Don’t give too much away on networking websites. For example, pets’ names or children’s names could be used as passwords.
- Register to vote at your current address. If you don’t, thieves could use your previous address details to open new credit accounts, and run up debts in your name.
- Monitor your post regularly so you know when to expect important documents — and when to act if they don’t arrive.
- Redirect your mail via the Post Office if you move house.
- Always use secure, unique passwords for as many online accounts as possible, and ideally all of them. At the very least have a unique password for each type of service provider such as financial services, retail services and email.
- Don’t store account names and passwords on your smartphone, either in email, as a note, or to ‘autocomplete’ when you open a website or app. It will be a goldmine for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen.
- Read all bank and card statements regularly to check for suspicious transactions.
- Check your credit report, because it lists your credit accounts and what you owe, so you can spot applications and spending that are nothing to do with you.