Helen Geraghty, Copywriter   17 January 2020

A person holding a phone with WorldRemit branding

Financial identity theft is a global problem that can cause victims financial loss, inconvenience, and stress.

Identity theft can occur both online and offline. Still, the rapid rise of online shopping and banking has meant that financial identity theft has quickly become the most typical type of cybercrime.

It’s not possible to eliminate the risk of falling victim to financial identity theft. But understanding what it is and how to protect yourself against it can help minimise the risk of being targeted.

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What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when a person acquires someone else’s personal or financial information and uses it fraudulently for their financial gain.

The types of sensitive information that are used by criminals to perform financial identity theft include address, birth date, maiden name, mother’s maiden name, social security number (in the US), driver’s license number, bank account or bank card number and online passwords.

There are many ways that criminals can acquire this information, including:

  • Your credit or debit cards are stolen
  • Your online accounts are hacked
  • You fall victim to a telephone, email or online scam
  • Your debit or credit card is “skimmed” at an ATM or using a card reader
  • A friend, family member, or another person you know acquires access to your sensitive information or documentation
  • You throw away paperwork containing confidential information, and someone retrieves it
  • A company or organisation breaches your data

Identity theft is a crime, and all incidents should be reported immediately.

Global identity theft statistics

These sobering statistics from around the globe highlight just how common the crime has become.

  • 40% of consumers across the world have been targets of ID theft at least once
  • According to the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Report, 978 million people across 20 countries reported experiencing cybercrime in 2017
  • Experian’s 2019 Global Identity and Fraud Report found that the US is the country with the highest incidence of identity theft and the EMEA region has the lowest
  • The same report by Experian found that 55% of businesses worldwide reported an increase in fraud-related losses between 2017 and 2018.
  • According to Javelin Strategy and Research, there were 16.7m identity theft victims in the US in 2017
  • The European Commission’s official statistics show that 41,502 data breaches were reported in Europe between May 2018 and January 2019

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Types of financial identity theft

If your details fall into the wrong hands, there are several different ways that thieves could use them for their financial gain, including; Types of financial identity theft

  • accessing your bank account or credit card and withdrawing cash or making charges to it
  • using your personal details to take out a loan
  • using your personal information to make a money transfer
  • writing a cheque in your name

The consequences of financial identity theft

The consequences you suffer as a result of financial identity theft will depend on your circumstances and the type of identity theft you’ve fallen victim to.

Here are some of the most typical ways that financial identity theft affects victims:

  • If your bank account has been used or emptied, you may have no funds available to cover everyday living expenses in the short-term
  • Your credit score may be negatively impacted, causing you problems now or in the future when you apply for credit or a loan
  • Resolving financial identity theft cases can be very time-consuming, causing victims significant inconvenience, upset and stress
  • In most cases, the stolen funds can be recovered, but in more serious cases you may experience financial loss

How to prevent identity theft

The first step to protecting yourself against financial identity theft is to gain a solid understanding of what it is and where the dangers lie.

Once you understand how criminals carry out identity theft, you can decide how to protect yourself and make it more difficult for criminals to target you.

Here are our top eight tips for keeping your personal information safe:

  1. Always store your sensitive financial information securely and never carry it with you or leave it lying around in your house.
  2. Never give anyone else your sensitive financial information or online log-ins.
  3. Always shred financial documentation before throwing it away.
  4. Never log-in to online banking using an unsecured internet connection.
  5. Check your credit score and online banking statements regularly for signs of suspicious activity.
  6. Use secure passwords online.
  7. Don’t open or click links in emails from unknown senders.
  8. Be careful about what personal information you share on social media.

Signs of identity theft to watch out for

It’s good to be aware of the signs that your personal information has been breached. That way, you can react quickly and minimise the damage.

Here are seven signs that could indicate you’ve fallen victim to criminal identity theft.

  1. You notice unfamiliar transactions on your bank statement.
  2. Your bank balance doesn’t look right.
  3. Your card payments are declined, or your cheques bounce.
  4. You receive bills for unfamiliar purchases.
  5. You are contacted by a debt collector about an unfamiliar debt.
  6. You stop receiving your usual bills or receive an unfamiliar invoice.
  7. You receive notification that your data has been breached.

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What to do if your identity is stolen?

Discovering evidence of identity theft can be extremely worrying.

No matter what kind of criminal identity theft you’ve fallen victim to, it’s important to report the crime as soon as possible to prevent further fraudulent activity and minimise damage.

Alert your bank or lender

The first step you should take is to inform your bank or lender. They may then take action to investigate the problem, prevent any further fraudulent activity, and report the crime to the police if appropriate.

Check your other accounts

If your security has been breached on one account, it’s possible that there could be fraudulent activity on other accounts, too. Alert all banks and lenders that have been affected.

Contact the police

The police may or may not be able to help with your financial identity theft case, depending on the country you live in and the circumstances of the fraud. In some instances, your bank or lender will advise you that they will report the crime to the police so that you don’t have to. If this is not the case - you may be required to notify the police yourself to get a police report or crime reference number to help resolve the matter.

How to report identity theft to a fraud organisation

There are organisations around the world dedicated to investigating and preventing financial identity theft and fraud.

These organisations can provide you with help and advice on what to do to prevent the crime from causing you any long-lasting adverse financial consequences.

Store copies of all correspondence relating to the crime

Make sure you keep a record of events and correspondence relating to the crime, in case you require any of the details as proof later.

Write down the names of the people you’ve spoken to regarding the crime and the dates and times that the conversations took place. Store all emails relating to the incident somewhere secure.

Check for computer viruses

Sometimes, criminals steal sensitive information and data by installing a virus on a computer. They often do this by disguising the file containing the virus and tricking individuals into clicking a link to download the file. If you’re a victim of financial identity theft, it’s a good idea to run an anti-virus scan on your computer to make sure there’s no malicious software present.

Check and monitor your credit report

If you’ve been affected by financial identity theft, then it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your credit score during the days, weeks, and months that follow to check for any adverse effects on your financial status

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Has your financial status been affected?

Your credit score assesses your financial status and is used by lenders to evaluate your credit worthiness and how likely you are to be able to repay a loan.

If you’re a victim of financial identity theft, your personal information may be used fraudulently to use your existing credit or apply for credit. This can hurt your credit history, especially if payments are then missed.

A poor credit rating can have implications for victims both immediately and well into the future if not addressed and rectified. If your credit score is negatively affected, you may find that you’re declined financial services and credit, denied a mortgage, car, or other large purchase, denied employment, or even refused medical procedures in certain countries.

Once you’ve reported the crime to the police, you may be able to get your credit report frozen to prevent more credit from being opened in your name and illegal activity affecting your credit rating.

You should also be able to get any accounts that have been fraudulently opened in your name removed to prevent them from affecting your credit score now or in the future.

How does WorldRemit protect against financial identity theft?

WorldRemit offers customers a trusted and secure way of sending money online to over 150 countries.

We are committed to protecting our customers and their money from criminals and continually monitor our service for suspicious activity.

We employ security experts to implement, monitor, review and enhance procedures and processes to keep you and your money safe online.

Here are just some of our security measures:

  • A secure and encrypted website and app
  • A sophisticated, automated, machine learning system that looks for signs of fraud and money laundering
  • Anti-virus protection
  • Secure payment systems on our website and app (using 3D secure technology)

For your peace of mind, we are a fully licensed money transfer service operating as an Authorised Electronic Money Institution and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

More than 4 million customers trust our long-established money transfer service. We make sending money online safe, affordable and convenient wherever you are.

Sign up and send money with WorldRemit

How to sign up?

If you want to get started sending money abroad, we’re here to make your WorldRemit registration as simple as possible.

We’ve put together a quick how-to guide to the WorldRemit sign up process, so that you can send money abroad to loved ones quickly, easily and safely. Wherever you are in the world, you can sign up with WorldRemit on our website, or after downloading the WorldRemit app available on:

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