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Do you know how to protect yourself against identity crime? #becybersmart

There’s only one you; keep it that way by protecting yourself against identity crime. That’s the message from Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police as part of the #Be Cyber Smart campaign.


Identity theft is the UK’s fastest-growing method used to carry out criminal activity and the internet provides numerous opportunities for fraudsters to harvest the personal data of unsuspecting members of the public.

Once a criminal has your details they can use them to commit identity fraud. They may be able to take over existing accounts, open new bank accounts, obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits, take out mobile phone contracts, order goods and get genuine documents in your name, such as passports, for example.

Identity theft costs the UK more than £3.3 billion a year, according to the Annual Fraud Indicator 2013.

However, there are some simple and yet effective steps that people can take to protect themselves against falling victim. Here is some more information about some of the key threats and how to counteract them.


This is a scam where fraudsters send an email, instant message or text message prompting you to provide your personal details, such as passwords and user names. The fraudsters often try to make their messages look like they are from legitimate companies. Sometimes they direct you to a website which looks legitimate but is actually bogus to prompt you to input your details. The captured information is then used for crimes, such as identity theft and bank fraud. The message can also contain links or attachments which will infect your computer, or other device, with a virus. 


  • If you receive an email from an unknown source asking for personal details do not give them out.
  • If the email looks like it is from a legitimate company do not disclose anything without checking that the request is genuinely from the company it purports to be. Check via another means, such as by phoning the company with a number you have sourced yourself and know is correct.
  • Mark suspicious emails as spam and delete them.
  • Think before clicking on links.
  • Visit Action Fraud and Get Safe Online for further information and advice.


Malicious software, known as malware, disrupts the performance of your computer or other devices.

It can be used to:

  • Prompt you to click on a link to a website which installs a virus or other malicious programming.
  • Track what you are typing on your keyboard, usually to try to commit bank fraud or to get hold of your personal login details.
  • Imitate valid software, like antivirus packages, to convince you that you need a bogus paid-for upgrade.
  • Copy personal files or images. The victim can then be told that these will be published online, or given to another person, unless they pay up.



  • Use legitimate antivirus software and make sure you keep it up to date
  • Think before clicking on a link or opening an attachment.
  • Make sure you understand what you are installing on a personal device
  • Keep your firewall switched on
  • Keep up to speed with the constantly-evolving online world and try to be aware of the risks.
  • Visit Action Fraud and Get Safe Online for further information and advice. 


Strong passwords are vital in protecting your personal details and identity.



  • Make sure your password is not easy to crack
  • Use three words or more
  • Make sure it contains numbers and symbols, not just letters
  • Use upper and lower case letters
  • Avoid obvious passwords, such as the name or your child or pet
  • ·        Visit Cyber Streetwise and Get Safe Online for more top tips 

Read it? Shred it

  • Identity fraudsters will use whatever information they can get hold of to clone your identity.
  • Before throwing something away, think about the personal details it contains and how they could be used by a fraudster.
  • Shred receipts containing card details on and post showing your name and address.



S Shred documents containing personal details before throwing them away.

M Make sure passwordsare nonsensical. Use letters, numbers and symbols.

A Always use legitimate and up-to-date antivirus software.

R Remain vigilant. Think before you input or email your personal details.

T Think Phishing. Could that email be from a fraudster trying to get hold of your personal details?


For further information on staying safe online go to Get Safe Online and Cyber Streetwise

If you have been a victim of fraud report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 20 40 or visiting Action Fraud

About Paul Hooper, WCC (575 Articles)
Group Manager: Community Safety and Substance Misuse
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