Is someone applying for credit in your name?
Earlier this week, an interview on the BBC's Money Box programme revealed that companies you have never heard of could be searching your details on credit rating sites without your knowledge. This could mean that your details have been hacked and that scammers are using your information to apply for loans and carry out identity theft.
You can listen to the interview here (go to 17:53).
In the programme, a Money Box listener explained how he had signed up for alerts on his account following the massive data breach at Equifax in 2017. He did this to keep on top of his credit score.
Credit search alerts
The alerts are available as part of a paid for subscription service and, in October last year, he was notified about two searches on his credit reference data by insurance companies. However, the man had not applied for insurance, either directly or through a comparison website.
He then queried the searches with Equifax, asking how they could help him, but was not given a satisfactory answer.
This is very worrying. If someone does manage to steal your identity they could open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, take out loans or mobile phone contracts, buy things and even apply for a passport in your name. Ultimately this could lead to your finances, credit rating and reputation being harmed.
What can Equifax do?
Very little it would seem. In fact, when asked by Money Box what could be done in such a situation, Head of Customer Experience at Equifax, Lisa Hardstaff, said that it was up to the customer to talk to the companies doing the searches themselves, rather than to Equifax to sort it out.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Worryingly, this is not the first time we have heard of this happening. It is not unusual for an individual who has had their data stolen to find that someone goes on to apply for various finance such as bank accounts, credit cards, mobile phones and online shopping accounts in their name.
Even worse, in some cases when an individual tries to check their credit record following suspected fraud they may find that they are unable to because the scammer has already opened an account in their name.
In response to this issue, we would strongly recommend that you check your credit record to see if there are any searches that you don't recognise.
Other ways to check if someone has stolen your identity include:
- Keeping an eye on your bank and credit card statements to see if there is anything you don't recognise
- Making sure you read your credit card statements and other letters that come from your bank.
If your identity has been stolen, you should:
- Contact your bank/credit card provider immediately
- Consider a credit freeze until the matter is resolved
- Report the scam to the police and contact Action Fraud for advice on what to do next
- Let the credit reference agencies know of any activity that was not down to you
- Register with the Cifas protective registration service. This will slow down credit applications made in your name with additional verification checks made to ascertain that the applicant is actually you.
The impact of identity theft
The real-life impact of identity theft can be devastating. It can have a significant effect on you mentally and physically. For some people, the results can include a lack of sleep, feeling ill, unsettled or confused. Stress can also affect your friends, family and job. So it's vital that you do everything you can to protect yourself.
At Hayes Connor, we are currently investigating a spike in identity theft following the Equifax data breach. If you have been affected by this breach and are worried that your data could be used against you, please let us know. We will thoroughly assess the impact the violation has had on you and help you to claim the compensation you deserve.
Alternatively, if you are worried that your data is being used to commit identity fraud following another data breach, you can let us know here.