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Help! Someone has stolen my identity

Identity theft. Image: Getty
It's scary having your identity stolen. It happened to me in London and I lived through several tense weeks trying to convince a finance company that I wasn't responsible for a €300 ($645) spending spree.

Someone had found my bank statements and used them to open a charge card in my name. Astoundingly the person was able to spend €300 on the spot. It wasn't my spending and eventually the company gave up trying to chase me.

Here's what you need to know to avoid identity theft happening to you:

  • Identity theft is fraud where someone pretends to be you to access your bank accounts or to take credit out in your name.
  • The fraudsters could be living in your street or on the other side of the world.
  • They use many techniques to steal personal information ranging from rummaging through your rubbish bin to hacking your computer.
  • It's incredibly easy for them to find out personal information about you ranging from the property you own to your car registration details.
  • More than 1000 incidents of identity theft are reported to the New Zealand Police each year.
  • There is no guarantee that banks will reimburse you if you are the victim of Internet fraud as a result of identity theft, although they usually do.
  • If you become a victim contact the police to report the crime.

How not to become a victim

  • Never throw mail away with personal details on it. Always shred paper — or even do what I do when I can't be bothered turning the shredder on: rip it up and either compost it or flush it down the toilet.
  • Install security software on your computer that includes antivirus and spyware protection and a firewall (software designed to prevent unauthorised access to your computer across the Internet).
  • Check your bank and credit card statements online regularly. If your bank has systems to limit the amount you can spend every day, use them to ensure that no-one else can withdraw large chunks of money.
  • Avoid posting personal details such as full name, workplace, date of birth, and e-mail addresses on social networking sites.
  • Check your Veda Advantage credit file at least once a year.
  • Only buy from websites that you know and trust so that your credit card details can't be scammed.
  • Avoid carrying out transactions on public computers in Internet cafes or libraries. It may have keystroke recording software on it.
  • Put a lock on your letterbox and receive bank statements electronically where possible.
  • Consider taking out identity theft insurance.

Read more about identity theft

User comments
I would like to know if others have experienced this!! My bank has many people with bank accounts with the same name as mine or spelt similar!!!. After finding out that a large amount of money had been put into my bank account and withdrawn the same day, without my knowledge, I contacted the banking ombudsmen. In this period ,some one who had been giving me help in my home was found to be forging my signature for a long length of time!!. I asked for a letter off the bank to verify that all the same names that were similar to mine were authentic!!! but the ombudsman investigating this told me that it was not necessary and that the bank didn't need to supply a letter to me that would assure me that I had nothing to worry about at this very stressful time!! I have no reassurance that all these names are authentic!! Anyone else experienced this!! sort of thing.

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