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Identity fraud

Online identity fraud is when someone pretends to be you and uses your personal information (like your name, email address or bank details) online to make others think they are you, to steal from you (theft) or to commit a crime in your name.

Teenage girl looking at her computer

If someone is pretending to be you online it can have a huge effect on your life, making you feel scared or unsafe. It can also make other people think you are doing things that you actually aren’t.

 

It can also affect you financially if someone is pretending to be you to access your bank account, if you have one.

How does this happen?

If someone can steal your identity online they may be able to set up bank accounts, credit cards or other accounts in your name on the internet, and use them to buy things or get cash. They may also be able to access your real bank accounts and credit cards, and do the same with them.

There are a number of things someone may try to do to steal your identity online:

  • Finding out your personal details, such as your name, address, and date of birth, from websites or other forums where you may have used them. This sort of information – as well as facts such as your mother’s maiden name or place of birth – are often used as security questions and can be used by a fraudster to open bank accounts, take out bad credit loans, and obtain or forge copies of passports, national insurance cards and official documents. They may also try to use them to bluff their way into your accounts by contacting the bank or company involved and pretending to be you.
  • They can use software or cameras to get your credit card information or bank details, and use this to access your accounts. For example, if you’re using a device in a public place such as in a café, or working while you’re travelling. They can also get your details by watching the numbers and information you type on your keyboard or keypad.
  • Phishing is a technique fraudsters use to fool you into handing over your details by impersonating a real organisation you might be a member of, such as a bank, PayPal, eBay or email account. Phishing messages will often ask you to click a link and login to their website, for example to in order to ‘re-establish your account’, ‘confirm your phone number’, or another apparently genuine reason. But the link or address, while appearing to be real, will be actually be fake and they will use your details to access your accounts.
  • Identity theft or fraud isn’t always about stealing things or money. Sometimes people will set up accounts or ‘hack’ your real accounts and pretend to be you, just to threaten, bully or harass you. For example, by gaining access to your social network accounts, someone can send out embarrassing or offensive messages that your friends and other people online will think have really come from you.

How can I protect myself?

There are a few ways in which you can be safer online to prevent online identity fraud:

  • Don’t share any of your social media or bank account details or passwords with anyone – even your friends and family.
  • Don’t use the same password on all websites.
  • Delete suspicious-looking emails without opening them.
  • Don’t respond to emails that seem to be from your bank asking you to ‘re-enter’ your personal details; your bank will never ask you to do that.
  • Make sure you use a device with antivirus software. You might have to check with your parent or carer if your device has this.
  • If you are using your phone, tablet or a computer in a public place (such as at school or library) make sure no one can see your personal information on the screen, or is watching you type in your password.

If it happens to me, what can I do?

  • If you do think someone is pretending to be you online, speak to an adult you trust about it.
  • Think about reporting it to the police as soon as possible.
  • If you find that your bank details or debit card details have been stolen, contact your bank as soon as possible to cancel the card, or freeze the account using their 24-hour helpline. It’s worth keeping the number in your phone or wallet in case it’s needed quickly.
  • If someone has hacked into your account or is pretending to be you on social media – for example, on TikTok or Instagram – contact the platform itself and explain what’s happening. They may be able to freeze the account or block the individual, particularly if what’s happening is regarded as cyber bullying.
  • If your eBay account is hijacked, there is a page on eBay’s site (the Safety Centre) to report this, and also an online fraud report helpline.

Who can help me?

Victim Support/You & Co – you can contact your nearest Victim Support office, call the 24/7 Supportline, contact us via live chat, or if you are 16 or older, you can create a My Support Space account. This is a free, safe and secure online space where you can work through interactive guides to help you move forward after crime.

Thinkuknow – this website has lots of information on how to keep safe online for young people of all ages, as well as parents and teachers.

Childline – 24-hour support for young people on a range of issues; call 0800 1111.

The Mix – information and support for 16-25 year olds on a whole range of issues. Get confidential help by email, text, webchat, or phone: 0808 808 4994.

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