I’ve had my identity stolen, it was an absolute nightmare. I was 8 months pregnant when I discovered this and it was a stress I didn’t need.

Close up  of person swiping their card in a card machine

What happened?

The thieves had somehow got hold of all my details and opened up a bank account in my name registered to an address in London. At the time I was living in Sunderland!

Using that address they claimed a whole host of benefits and credit using all my details. This had been going on for around a year when I found out.

The only reason I actually found out when I did was that as I was pregnant and due soon I called the Tax Credit office to ask for forms and see what I would be likely to receive in the way of benefits.

Prior to this, I had never claimed any benefits. When I called they could not give me any information as I allegedly already had a claim with them at a different address.

As I was unable to give them this address they could not tell me any more information. After a trip to the DSS office and chatting to a helpful adviser later I found out that the claimant had received a disability living allowance, tax credits, and various extra support for self-employment as a disabled person all in my name.

They had used my National Insurance number, date of birth and full name. All details I had no idea could have been accessed by anyone else. It turned out this particular address in London was full of claimants of similar benefits so probably part of a big scam.

How I resolved it

It took a month of various trips to tax offices and banks to finally get it all resolved by proving my identity numerous times, that I had never lived in London and the addresses I had lived during that period.

I had to contact my previous employer and get proof of that employment and location along with tenancy agreements and a statement from my old landlord that I had lived in Sunderland during this period. This was all stress I didn’t need whilst heavily pregnant!

So, what do I recommend to avoid it ever happening to you? Whilst I am not positive how they got my details I do have a few ideas. I think an old pay slip or P60 had been sent to my old address after I moved and that fell into the wrong hands.

Another possibility is that a bank statement went astray during my house move. The issues however are that for someone to know my National Insurance Number, Date of birth and full name there are likely to have been a few things that went missing.

When you think about it not much has all that on it does it?

Some Tips to avoid identity theft

When you move house set up a post redirection and ensure it is for longer than you think you need to make sure nothing goes astray.

Shred anything with your full name on it, your date of birth, bank details, national insurance number or tax details when you no longer need it.

Never give out details over the phone if you are called, always ring them back on a number you know to be correct. Ensure first however that the caller has disconnected the call completely (try ringing a different number first or call off another phone).

Regularly check your credit reference file for any credit applied for or taken out in your name that you have not done yourself.

Don’t trust anyone with your passwords and if you think anyone knows them, change them!

Never use public wifi for anything like banking, emails etc.

If you can get paperless statements from the bank then do so, this minimises the risk of losing them yourself and they cant go astray in the post.

Have you ever had your identity stolen? Do you have any other tips I haven’t thought of? Do comment below and let me know.

woman looking at laptop - My identity and data theft - 7 ways you can avoid it!

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