Money Magic: Paul Lewis on outfoxing the ID thieves

    It is the day the rubbish is collected. But during the night the foxes have been busy. Not the furry sort who tear into the black sacks for a tasty chicken bone. But the ID thieves who sort through our paper recycling box for anything with our name and address on. Old utility bills. Circulars from the bank. A letter from the council. Direct mail from a charity. They can all be used to impersonate us, redirect our mail, take out a loan, buy a TV on credit. Or get a new mobile phone on a monthly contract. The first thing we know is when we get the bill. Or the bailiffs call.

    Tip 1: Buy a cross-cut shredder and turn anything with your name and address printed on it into confetti. With the information destroyed it’s no good to the foxes. But the recyclers will still take it.

    Tip 2: Change your behaviour online. Never, ever respond to e-mails apparently from your bank by clicking on a link and filling in your details. If you want to contact your bank do it through the normal website.

    Tip 3: When you use your card online to buy things check that the web address at the top begins “https:” – the “s” after the “http” indicates it is a secure site. There should also be a padlock at the end of the address bar or the bottom of the page. Click on it to check the site’s security. If those things are not there you could be sending your credit card details to a cyber café in Russia. Expect to be robbed.

    Tip 4: When you go abroad take great care with your card. Many parts of the world do not use the chip and PIN system. That means your card and the details easily stripped from its magnetic stripe are much more valuable. So don’t give it to the waiter or waitress in the restaurant. Go to the till and keep your eye on it while you pay.

    Tip 5: Always check your credit card statement and bank account for unidentified payments. And once a year get your £2 credit report and make sure all the credit applications have been made by you.

    Finally, save money by never taking out ID theft insurance. If you’ve got it cancel it. If you are defrauded the bank pays anyway. So it is a waste of money.

    Paul Lewis is a freelance writer who presents Money Box on BBC Radio 4

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