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The Telegraph’s legal expert, Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors is an expert at winning compensation for clients in personal injury cases. This week warns of the dangers of identity theft, the fastest growing form of fraud in the UK, and explains what to do if you think your identity has been stolen.

Your identity is a valuable commodity - you need it to function in everyday life. You need evidence of who you are to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, finance, loans and mortgages, to obtain goods or services, or to claim benefits.

But you may not be the only person using your own personal details. Your identity can be stolen and used in a variety of ways. This phenomenon is commonly known as identity theft (or identity fraud) and is the fastest growing type of fraud in the UK.

There are a number of main ways your identity can be stolen: someone can go through your bins (dumpster diving); card details can be stolen by special storage devices placed by criminals on cashlines (skimming); emails claiming to be from banks asking for personal information (phishing); stealing or diverting your mail (old fashion theft).

There are simple ways to avoid identity theft such as not using obvious passwords or security questions (such as your mother’s maiden name); letting your bank know if you move; shredding documents; monitoring accounts and not carrying address details in your wallet.

If you do suspect you are a victim, advice is available. Contact the organisation concerned straight away. Report the crime to the police and get a copy of your credit report.

In the UK data handling is covered by the Data Protection Act . 

If you think you are a victim of identity theft or your Data Protection Rights have been breached it is important that you act immediately.

The Information Commissioner's Office freely publishes information on how someone can seek compensation for any damage suffered from a breach of the Data Protection Act.

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