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Those Thieving Tenants!

Updated on November 1, 2009

New research has exposed alarming evidence of widespread identity fraud in the private rented sector. Tenants are acting like vultures, feeding on the personal information of their predecessors and committing gross acts of theft.

There are some 16million tenants in the UK and it is the mobility and transient nature of this enormous group that has encouraged the incidents of fraud to multiply. The life assurance company, CPP, has released figures that show one in every seven tenants have their mail intercepted (by new incoming tenants) and some of these go on to commit identity theft, using the valuable information supplied in the post. Whether it is due to ignorance or forgetfulness is uncertain, but the assurance company’s figures show that a third of all tenants fail to arrange redirection of mail when they move and only 36 per cent inform their bank they have moved.

These oversights provide would-be thieves with an open invitation to abuse the prior tenant’s personal details – and they are doing it in droves.

Crimes that are being committed through this avenue of fraud include incidents where tenants have taken complete control over prior tenants’ bank accounts, examples of false mobile telephone contracts and fraudulent shopping catalogue accounts being set-up and multiple cases of online identity theft using credit card information. In each case, the victim knows nothing is wrong, until of course they check their bank and credit-card statements at the end of the month. In the case of deferred payment regimes, the fraudulent transactions can remain concealed for months, by which time hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds have disappeared out of the victim’s bank account.

The problem is that tenants are amongst the most vulnerable, because of the types of accommodation they live in. Many reside in shared houses or properties where mail is left in communal spaces. If they do not have their mail redirected when they vacate, letters and statements start piling up – and the vultures start circling overhead. Bank account and credit card statements provide would-be ID thieves with much of the information they require to commit fraud. Other mail can disclose facts about a person’s tax, pension status, benefit payments and hire purchase arrangements. CPP say over 85 per cent of new tenants receive mail belonging to a vacated tenant.

We spend a small fortune on keeping our cyberspace identity safe, because most of us know that identity theft committed over the Internet is all too common. But perhaps some are forgetting the more straightforward route others might take to steal our identity and access our hard-earned cash. By allowing our snail-mail to fall into the hands of unscrupulous tenants, we might as well just hand them our credit cards and wallets.

Outgoing tenants are not the only people that should arrange to have their mail redirected. Landlords are commonly the targets too, because they often forget to remind companies and financial agencies that while they might own the property – they don’t actually live in it. Consequently, mail from mortgage lenders, banks, credit companies and legal advisers can fall into the hands of a would-be ID thief (your latest tenant). Whether you are a tenant or a landlord or anyone else concerned about this type of fraud, remember to have your mail redirected for at least 12 months when you move and back this up by informing ALL relevant agencies and organisations where you have moved to. It’s a simple task and one that could save you thousands of pounds.

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