It’s probably fair to say that most people are expecting to receive a hefty bill for COVID19. The government is going to have to balance its books sooner or later and for practical purposes, that means reducing services and/or raising taxes. What people may not be expecting, however, is to discover that they are on the record as having a “bounce-back” loan.

Bounce-back loans bite back

Realistically, it was always to be expected that the government (for which read the tax-payer) was going to be picking up a lot of the tab for the bounce-back loans. They were issued on the basis of need rather than credit-worthiness. The sore point is that they were issued with minimal identity checks. This left them wide open to exploitation by criminals.

That at least some loan applications were made fraudulently is now beyond any reasonable doubt. From a macro perspective, the only question is the scale of the fraud. From a micro perspective, the key question is whether or not you personally have been one of its victims.

Even if you’ve escaped this time, it’s still important to be vigilant. Identity theft has been a growing problem for years. There’s really nothing to suggest that’s going to change any time soon.

Picking up on signs of identity theft

It may be tedious but you should watch out for any signs of unusual communications and any unusual activity on all of your financial accounts. This includes paying attention to your junk mail/spam just in case anything important is misidentified. It’s also advisable to check at least one of your credit records regularly. Ideally, you’ll check all of them once a month.

If you spot anything untoward, then make a point of following up promptly. You’ll probably find that it’s nothing, or at most just minor fraud. If, however, it does turn out to be something serious, then you need to take action as quickly as possible.

Preventing identity theft

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some steps everyone can take to reduce their likelihood of falling victim to it.

Close any unused accounts

In this context “any unused accounts” means exactly that. It includes absolutely everything from websites you never visit any more, to store cards you never use via dormant email addresses. Basically, if an account is open there should be a specific reason for it.

If you’re dealing with debt, you may want to consider prioritising accounts with small balances you can tackle relatively easily. You can then close these, at which point the lender should move your details into an archive until they are deleted. This may also give your credit score a boost.

Protect all your connected devices

You need proper security software not just for your computer, but also for your smartphone and tablet. For regular smart devices, check to see if the device allows you to use a password and if so choose a strong one. Ideally, allow your device to apply manufacturer updates automatically, but if this is not an option, make sure you apply them manually as soon as possible.

Remember your regular mail

These days, letters are very rarely used for standard correspondence. They are, however, still very much used for important paperwork. This can mean anything from birthday cards to legal paperwork. This means that your letters can still be highly valuable to an identity thief, so it’s important to protect them.

Make sure that you always keep your contact details up to date with any service provider you use and consider using mail redirects when you move. Choose a letterbox which allows people to deliver letters easily but doesn’t let them be pulled out again. Last but not least, shred any confidential paperwork effectively before you recycle it.

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