Be safe - Protect your identity

This page provides information on how to protect yourself from identity theft, tips on to stay safe online, advice on how to check your credit rating, and some tips on other ways to stay safe...

Protect your identity

Identity theft is on the increase. It's remarkably easy for someone to get information on you, get access to your credit card, account details or home address. Be extra vigilant with credit card details and statements.

Below are some basic tips for identity protection - also, read the section below on 'Protection online'

Credit cards

Remember that crooks don't need your card to help run up your bill... just the card number and expiry date. Keep safe. Also, think about the following:

  • Consider cancelling unused credit & store cards. Less to worry about being stolen and keeping track of, and less paper statements.
  • Consider getting a credit card that uses the new Chip and PIN technology recently introduced in the UK - using a PIN for in-store transactions is much safer than a signature
  • When using your card, don't let the card out of your sight if at all possible - this helps protect your card against being 'skimmed' - card details, expiry date and security number being copied.

ShredderConsider a document shredder. Think of how many bank statements, bills and credit card slips you chuck in the bin, and how they could be used as proof of identity.

Argos stock five shredders, with prices from £17.99 to £62.99 (including Fellowes Shredders), the main difference being the size of the bin (between 12 and 25 litre capacity). Better still, check out the range of Shredders from Euroffice

Getting a mains-powered paper shredder for home is affordable, and could save you a lot of hassle.

PIN numbers

Common sense applies here:

  • Don't use the same PIN for all your cards
  • Don't write PINs down, or tell them to anyone
  • Be cautious when entering a PIN - who's watching over your shoulder?
  • Consider going ex-directory. Contact BT
  • Consider getting a SkypeIn number from for a small one-off fee, to protect your main home number, and to screen unwanted calls - Calls get diverted to your PC or to voicemail.
  • Register with the Telephone Preference Service. Helps to reduce unwanted marketing calls and junk text messages. Online registration only takes a minute, and is free.
Public records people searchThe big one here is the Electoral Roll (controlled by your local council). First off, go to, create yourself a free account, then try searching for yourself. You may find that your name, address and number are listed on this site either as a result of the electoral roll, or from a phone book entry. As well as being searchable online, the information on is available to anyone on a CD.

If you want to be removed, follow the link to 'Privacy policy' and print out their Record Correction form.
When completing the annual electoral roll form, make sure you elect not to have your details made publicly available. More at

Home computer

Imagine if your computer were to be stolen - letters, bank details, personal information, address book and calendar. How much data would you lose?

  • Take a backup, and keep it away from your computer
  • Password protect your machine if possible, and password-protect sensitive data
  • Get yourself a good virus checker and make sure it's up-to-date. We recommend Norton Internet Security, which contains AntiVirus, Anti-spam and a Firewall for maximum protection. Available from Amazon or
Important documents Your passport, birth certificate and driving licence should be locked away safely. There's no need to carry your driving licence around with you, and keeping it in your wallet or handbag can be dangerous, especially as it contains your home address.


Be safe online

  • Take care with emails that claim to be from your bank, or from the likes of Ebay or PayPal. There's been much in the news recently on what's known as 'phishing' - fake emails and websites so realistic-looking, that people freely enter personal details. One thing you can do to protect yourself is to cut down on the amount of spam you get - consider getting Cloudmark, an excellent anti-spam solution
  • Most viruses are delivered by email, and if you're not protected, you can spread the virus to your friends via your address book, and open your computer to hackers. Get yourself a good virus checker and make sure it's up-to-date. We recommend Norton Internet Security from Amazon or
Viruses and attacks

NortonWhen your computer connects to the Internet, you open yourself to attack, either by email viruses, downloaded files containing a malicious program, or take-over attempts by other computers. This is especially dangerous for Broadband users who have an always-on connection.

Get yourself a good security application, and make sure you keep it up-to-date. We recommend Norton Internet Security, which contains an AntiVirus program (for files and emails), an anti-spam tool, and a Firewall to stop unwanted instructions. The program should be configured for automatic update, to download the latest virus definitions as soon as possible. Norton is available from Amazon or

Test your security now: Try the Symantec Security Check

Website check

Amazingly, many of us have personal information that's used by banks, sitting on public web pages...

  • Registered with Friends Reunited? You could have made it easy for someone to find out your school, place-of-birth and birth year, plus other personal information. Check your listing now at, and any other similar sites you're registered with
  • Family tree? Are you, or anyone you know, working on your family tree? If so, your place of birth and mother's maiden name may be 'out there'
  • Try separate websearches using for the following, and see what's already out there:
    • Your name
    • Your home and mobile phone numbers
    • Your email address
    • Your postcode
  • One password? One of the worst things you can do, is have a single password for all of the Internet sites you're registered with. While banks have very strong security in place, are you sure that the small sites you visit are storing your details safely and securely?
  • Make sure your passwords can't be guessed.
Website owners

If you run a UK website, your details can be publicly available. UK domains are controlled by Nominet. Go to their site and perform a WHOIS search for your domain to see what's on file under 'Registrant' for your site.

If there's something there that shouldn't be - contact your ISP / hosting company and tell them that you want to opt-out. They'll arrange to update the domain name record held by Nominet on your behalf.

Check your credit status

There are three main UK credit reference agencies that financial organisations use when checking your identity or processing an application for credit or financial services. For £2, each company has to provide you with a copy of what they hold on file for you. This includes:

  • Information on currents loans
  • Electoral roll information
  • Old addresses
  • County Court Judgements
  • A list of companies that have performed recent 'checks'

It's well worth paying £2 to each of the following to get hold of the information they hold on you:

  • Experian - Various services available, but a summary can be requested and paid for online. Report is posted. Enhanced services are offered by Experian at
  • Equifax - £2 for the basic statutory form sent by post, or a plain-English version online for £8.25
  • Callcredit- £2 for the basic statutory form sent by post - a PDF form can be downloaded. A text message service available.
  • Annual Credit Report - Get free access to a basic credit check, in return for signing up to an email newsletter

If you're serious about your credit score, you can get a free Experian credit report and a free trial of Experian's CreditExpert Monitoring Service.. More details of this offer at A similar service is offered by Equifax.

If moving house, it's worth ordering the £2 reports after a few months, to see who still has your old address on file

Free credit report from Experian

Reduce your mail

  • When completing your annual electoral roll form for your local council, tick the "Opt out of the Electoral Roll for marketing purposes" option
  • Reduce the amount of unsolicited or junkmail you receive, by registering at the Mailing Preference Service. Go to and fill in the online form for removal from major mailing lists

Check out companies

  • Check that a company's still in business at the Companies House website
  • If buying from a company for the first time, have a quick search for the company name, plus the word "complaint" on Google, or see the list of consumer complaint sites on our Making a Complaint advice page.

Check out cars

  • Before buying a car, get it checked out. Go to where for a small fee, they can run an AA Car Data Check, to check mileage, outstanding finance, and whether the car has been reported stolen, plus lots more.

Other links

  • Take a look at Free ID Protection a proactive means of securing your credit files. The site provides free Notice of Correction letters which are sent to the 3 Credit Reference Agencies.
  • Thanks to site visitor James for suggesting the following link: BBC Moneybox report - this offers some proactive advice including getting a Notice of Correction added to your credit files.

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