What is identity theft?

Identity theft is when someone steals personal information such as your name, date of birth and address. When these details are used to open a bank account, sign up for a credit card, or apply for official documents, identity theft becomes identity fraud. As well as affecting your finances and credit rating, being a victim of identity fraud can be a stressful and upsetting experience. So it’s worth knowing how to stay one step ahead of fraudsters.

Young student using her laptop to research what is identity theft

How fraudsters can steal your personal information

Most of us know the importance of making our passwords and PINs secure and keeping them out of fraudsters’ hands. But even simple details such as your full name, date of birth and address can be used to commit identity fraud. Often criminals don’t need to look very hard to find out where you live or when you were born. A happy birthday message from a friend on social media might give them a clue, as would a bank statement that’s been left intact in your recycling bin.

Once they gather enough of your details, a fraudster might apply for a passport, driving license or birth certificate. If they get their hands on those documents or pretend to be you online or on the phone, they might then make financial applications and transactions in your name.

Identity fraud can lead to money problems

Unauthorised payments and withdrawals are the most obvious sign of identity fraud. Depending on how much they steal, criminals might not leave enough money for you to pay bills and other living costs, which could create debt and other financial problems. Fortunately, our fraud detection systems are always getting better at flagging and rejecting unauthorised transactions.

If a fraudster uses your details in other ways, like setting up a bogus company or borrowing money on credit, you might not notice the fraud right away. As time passes and bills go unpaid, the debt could show up in your credit file and lower your credit worthiness.

Barclaycard monitors accounts around the clock. If fraud is spotted, we can either call you in person or we can alert you in under 60 seconds with an automated call.

It can take a while to separate fact from fiction by convincing banks and credit reference agencies that the debts aren’t yours. Until it’s sorted out, you could have a harder time securing a mortgage, credit card, phone contract, and any other credit agreement which requires lenders to check how you’ve managed repayments in the past.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent identity theft and fraud happening to you. For example, using Barclaycard online servicing, you can keep an eye out for unusual activity by reviewing transactions and payments (with 12 months of statements available to download), and checking your Experian Credit Score. It’s also a good idea to change your password regularly.

How to prevent identity theft

The best defence against identity theft is to arm yourself with the know-how needed to stay one step ahead of scammers. You can test your current knowledge and get expert advice on how to avoid identity theft and fraud by using our Fraud Fighter tool and reading the tips below.

Take care of your personal details online and on paper

Don’t underestimate the sneaky ways fraudsters get their hands on personal information. Bills, bank statements and other post left in your bin could be retrieved by someone who’s up to no good and used to commit fraud. To stay on the safe side, shred everything that contains personally identifiable information.

Think about what information is available online for anyone to see:

  • Your year of birth could be part of a username.
  • Your full date of birth might be listed on your social media profile.
  • Pet names might be mentioned alongside photos on social media.

It’s best to keep this kind of publicly available information out of your passwords and secret answers so you don’t have to worry about accidentally giving away your private login details to scammers.


Beware of fraudulent websites, phishing emails, calls and letter

Some identity thieves get your information by taking it from private or public lists, while others try to scam you into giving it away by posing as a legitimate company or trusted contact.

It’s important to be wary, as requests for your personal information could come by email, text message, letter, or phone call. You may even see a fake social media profile that’s pretending to be Customer Support for a well-known company.

If in doubt, remember that...

Banks and credit card companies should never ask you to confirm your full password or PIN, especially if they’re contacting you out of the blue.

If you think you’ve received a scam call, this is how to protect yourself:

  • If you aren’t sure who you’re speaking to, tell them you’ll call back on their official number.
  • If someone claiming to be from Barclaycard asks you for full account information, it’s not us and should be reported to our fraud team.
  • For more tips on protecting yourself from digital threats, check out how to stay safe online.
  • You can also learn about how to spot online scams by taking part in a virtual session held by our Digital Eagles. It’s a free way to build your knowledge of computers and the internet and includes Barclays DigiSafe in Cyber Space, in which you’ll learn how to spot unsafe pop-ups, how to change your privacy settings, and more.

Keep your post safe

Your post is for your eyes only. If it looks like it’s been tampered with, or if you’re expecting a credit card statement and it doesn’t arrive, let the issuer know right away. If you move home, protect yourself against Previous Occupier Fraud by updating your contact details with anyone who sends you letters. You can also set up Redirection with Royal Mail, which will divert mail from your old address through to your new one, for up to 3, 6 or 12 months.

By keeping your personal information safe, you can lower the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud. For extra peace of mind though, it doesn’t hurt to know how to report a scam and clean up the mess it may have created.

Reporting ID theft and repairing the damage

Like a medical check-up, figuring out if your identity has been stolen is about looking for things that just don’t seem right.

  • Here are a few signs of unusual activity to keep an eye out for:
Unauthorised transactions. These are easy to spot as long as you check your statements regularly.
Unexplained post. This could mean receiving items that you haven’t ordered or failing to receive mail.
Changes to your credit score. Checking your credit score is one of the best ways to know if your identity is safe because credit files list all forms of credit taken out in your name. It could also be worth reading up on other causes of a bad credit rating, so you have a better idea of what might have affected yours.

If you spot a product or enquiry in your credit history you didn’t sign up to or make, let Action Fraud know, contact your bank, and get the credit reference agencies to fix the entries.

You can report suspicious transactions by clicking ‘query this transaction’ on Barclaycard online servicing, or by giving us a call on 0800 318 665 or +44 (0)1452 828 309 from abroad – call charge information.

What’s next?

Barclaycard’s fraud team are dedicated to stopping fraudsters in their tracks. If we spot something suspicious, we’ll either call you in person or alert you in under 60 seconds with an automated call.

To swot up on preventing ID fraud, have a go at our Fraud Fighter tool. It helps protect you online and offline through a series of questions and expert advice on digital security, personal data and scams.

Use our Fraud Fighter tool