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National Identity Fraud Prevention Week

08 October, 2007
A campaign to raise awareness of the threat of identity theft has been launched this week in the UK.
Protecting your identity on-line is dominating security news at the moment with high profile cases of accessing personal information on social networking sites and the theft of mobile computing devices containing confidential data. The implication of all this activity is that identity theft is in vogue not only for the suppliers of data protection and web filtering software but also for the criminals who are piecing together snippets of personal information to gather enough to commit frauds ranging from simple theft to more complex and dangerous schemes relating to organised crime.

The UK has just begun National Identity Fraud Prevention Week aimed at raising public awareness to the problems and consequences of having your identity stolen. This awareness isn't just aimed at on-line identity theft but also at the more down to earth methods of sifting through waste bins, intercepting mail from communal areas and keeping your ear to the ground.

If this sounds like harder work than releasing a Trojan onto the web, it isn't. A bin-raiding survey carried out by Waste Works showed that around 19 million households throw sensitive material into the bin and that 13% throw away entire credit card numbers along with sufficient other information to commit a crime. Amongst the items that Waste Works managed to fish out of the bins were National Insurance numbers, bank statements, passwords, loan agreements and mortgage details.

National Identity Fraud Prevention Week is supported by the Government, the Royal Mail, the main credit reference agencies, the DVLA, the Metropolitan police and the BSIA all of whom back the message to protect your identity through "good housekeeping", as Tony Marsh of the Royal Mail put it.

The main thrust of the campaign this week is to persuade households and small businesses to keep identity related data secure, re-direct post when you move house, don't leave post in communal areas, shred waste before disposal, check bank statements for unusual activity and make regular checks on your credit rating with the credit reference agencies. This last item is the sting â€" Helen Lord of the Experian credit reference agency described the consequences as leaving your credit history in tatters after the fraudsters have finished applying for loans and contract phones. Unravelling this damage can then be a time consuming project, much more stressful than buying a shredder.

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