Data security firm Experian warns that more than 350 people a day fall victim to identity theft in the UK alone.
However, the firm does not add that recently it was caught up in a scandal over selling consumer data on 200 million people to a known identity theft company in Vietnam.
Experian sells identity protection services worldwide but failed to carry out checks on the sale of personal information to a known ID thief, Hieu Minh Ngo.
The company got involved in the deal by taking over another company, Court Ventures, in 2012.
Court Ventures had an information sharing agreement with another company called US Info Search.
These companies were supposed to sell consumer information to registered US businesses, but were taken in by Ngo, who posed as a US private investigator.
Protecting your online identity
Although Experian warns consumers about identity theft, questions remain to be answered about how well the company protects its own data.
In a new report, Experian found 132,000 of fraud connected to identity theft in the UK last year.
The firm’s consumer protection service Credit Expert has issued five signs that could mean someone is an identity theft victim:
- Unexpected mobile phone call charges – Often a fraudster takes over an account and orders new phones and SIM cards
- Unexpected goods delivered – Fraudsters have ordered goods with a stolen identity but failed to take delivery
- Unsolicited mailshots from companies turn up – Check bank and credit card statements for suspicious purchases as these often trigger after sale mailshots
- Debt collectors call – Last year, more than 640 people found their identities were stolen by fraudsters when debt collectors called over unpaid bills
- Courts send out a summons – Don’t ignore letters about debts, says Experian, as many firms will resort to the courts to recover their money
Peter Turner, managing director of Experian Consumer Services UK said: “It only takes a few minutes to check out whether you are a victim of identity fraud by calling companies, checking phone and financial statements and not ignoring letters.
“However, it takes an average of eight months to unravel an identity theft and get your financial affairs back on an even keel.”
Turner suggests making identity theft tougher for crooks by devising strong and unique passwords for each online account, so fraudsters can only access one account if they break your security codes.
He also explained keeping banks and service providers aware of any change of address is also a good way to stop fraudsters stealing an online identity.