“Somebody has opened a Bank Account in my name”- A true story of identity theft and what to do about it

This week I received a letter from the Nationwide titled “Here’s your Personal Identification Number (PIN)”, immediately alarm bells started to ring. I knew that it wasn’t me who had applied and whoever it was had been successful. A couple of days later my fears were confirmed as a new debit card also came through the post.

I called the Nationwide Customer Service, first of all I was given a choice between self-service and lost or stolen, it’s a bit confusing because its neither, I went for lost/stolen finally I was offered the option of other and asked to say the problem, I said “fraud”, the system then asked me for my account or customer number, as I don’t have one it was confusing but I pressed the hash key until I’m put through to someone, who I explain the situation to, they took my details and explain a member of their fraud team will call me within 48 hours, this doesn’t happen.

What does happen is that 3 days later a new debit card arrives and another letter welcoming me to my new FlexiDirect Account. Fortunately this is followed the next day by a letter from the Application Vetting Team informing me that they have recently received an application in my name for one of their products but because they thought it looked unusual they were cancelling the application. But I’m still confused because they have sent a debit card etc and so I would have expected it to say cancelling the account, so I call again.

After fudging the system to speak to someone I tell the whole story again and they check into it and confirm that the account has been closed. Also, Nationwide have flagged my name on the CIFAS database so that if any other financial applications are made in my name extra checks are required. This is reassuring as the worry is that the fraudsters have done this for multiple banks or credit cards.

Ok, so it appears that this Nationwide account has been stopped because of my phone call, but it does make me think how easy it is to fraudulently open an account. So, I went online and went through the Nationwide application including getting a £500 overdraft limit.

The list of personal information required is scarily basic: Name, DOB, Address, Date of moving into residence, Email, Telephone number etc. A lot of this information is publicly available, my name, address, DOB, and company name are all available on the internet, and similarly historical information about residence can be found on Zoopla etc. Also, all this information would have featured in one data breach or other that cyber criminals can easily access.

How do I protect myself now?

I still have some lingering fear that other accounts have been opened and money is being borrowed in my name. Being flagged on the CIFAS database is a good start because it should stop it happening again, but I need to find out what has already transpired. The best way to do this is go to credit reference agencies who can tell you what credit applications have been made in your name. There are 3 main agencies and the Citizens Advice Bureau recommends signing up with all 3 to make sure that you cover everything. So, I signed up with Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

Signing up with them is again more confusing than you would expect. Firstly Transunion, when you go to there website as a victim of identity theft its not immediately obvious which option to go for as its not directly flagged, however if you click “Get credit report”, the next option does offer you a free one-off service which includes “Victim of Fraud Service”, the sign-up took 2 minutes and straightaway I could see my credit report.

The report itself is not terribly user friendly. Firstly, click on “Financial Account Information” to find out what credit accounts are open in your name. Secondly check “Search History” to see who has performed searches on you. Slightly worryingly though I can see no mention of Nationwide having done a search. The information is very good, its also free but it takes a little navigating around.

Experian is a bit similar, from the home page it is not obvious that you are in the right place for identity theft victims. In fact, the main offering seems to be a “free credit score” which is not what we need. Scrolling around it is the Credit Report that you want and to get that one you need to sign up for the Credit Expert Service, free for 30 days but a lumpy £14.99 a month thereafter. I tried to sign up, but they said that they needed to check my details and would be back to me in 5 days. So, clearly not as efficient as the other 2 agencies.

Equifax has a less glitzy home page but does highlight Identity Protection as one of the features of its credit report, which is available on a free 30 day trial and then £7.99 per month thereafter. I signed up, which took 2 minutes, again the “my account page” is a bit functional but when you click on “get my first credit report” it generates smoothly. Looking at “Credit Agreements” there is nothing amiss, then “Credit Searches”, nothing a miss but I can see the Nationwide search having taken place. It’s a good service and if you don’t want to keep paying you can cancel your subscription immediately.

I now feel much more comfortable about what has happened. Going forward the two other key tips for victims of identity theft are to make sure that you are following good password rules, please watch our video to Strong Passwords and for protecting your devices, please read our guide. Please stay safe.