Credit and identity theft; if someone has stolen your identity details to get credit in your name

Identity theft can lead to someone getting credit in your name which is extremely unpleasant and can have far-reaching consequences. It is possible for criminals to discover your personal details and use them to open bank accounts or to take out credit cards and loans in your name. Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent now that so many people are placing their details online. For hackers it is not difficult to gather personal and private information for the web or even from personal computers.

If you believe that you have been a victim of identity theft you need to tell the lender immediately. You will not be responsible for paying back the debt if you can prove that there is a case of identity theft.

It is possible that the person who took out credit in this way may be someone you know, for example a family member. Be aware that the person could get into serious trouble. If you’re worried about the consequences, you may want to get professional advice before reporting the identity theft.

About banking security and fraud

When you use your bank account, bank card or cheque book, you need to make sure your information and identity is secure. This will help to protect you from fraud.

Keeping your bank details safe

A bank card might be a credit or debit card. You should be careful whenever you use your cards.

The card issuer will send your card and PIN number to you separate from one another.

When you have received your PIN, you may change it. You can usually do this at a cash machine. You can also choose not to be issued with a PIN.

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to use your card and PIN safely, and adhere to the agreed terms and conditions.

Remember that you should:

  • not allow anyone else to use your card, PIN or other security information
  • take all reasonable steps to keep your card safe and your PIN and other security information secret
  • remember that your bank or building society will never ask you to tell them your PIN
  • never write down or record your PIN or other security information
  • always learn your PIN and other security information and then destroy the notification as soon as you receive it
  • contact your bank if you don’t receive a bank statement or other expected financial information
  • if you use an internet banking site, always type the bank address into the web browser URL and do not ever follow an e-mail link and then enter personal details.

You can also get help on what to do if the signature on a credit agreement isn’t yours.  Your local Citizens Advice Bureau is one of the best places to turn to in this case. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Are you being pursued for someone else’s debt?

It is possible that you are being asked to pay back money because you have the same name as someone who owes the money and the lender is trying to find them. Always check to make sure the debt is yours if you are asked to pay back a debt.

Should this happen to you, get in touch with whoever is collecting the debt to tell them that you are not responsible for the debt.

If the company continues to chase you for the debt, ask them to provide proof that you owe the money. Also point out that guidelines issued by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) say collectors shouldn’t continue to make unjustified demands for payment where a debt is in dispute.

You can obtain a copy of the Debt collection guidance: Final guidance on unfair business practices from the OFT website: www.oft.gov.uk.

If you’re still having trouble with a lender chasing you for money you don’t owe, you can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Lenders don’t have to agree to let one of you off.

You can get help to work out whether you owe money to a lender. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB.