Moving house increases identify theft risk

Redirecting your mail may seem like the least important thing while moving, but it could save you having to deal with identity fraud

(Image credit: Getty/Westend61)

Moving home is exciting – but can get very hectic. There's so much to think about, from packing to the logistics of hiring a van, that it's easy to forget about the smaller but vital tasks that are part of moving, too, such as redirecting your post or disposing of unwanted documents safely. 

It's always better to be on the safe side with these particular house moving jobs, especially in this day and age, when identity fraud is so widespread – in 2017, CIFAS (Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System) recorded 174,523 cases of identity fraud, with eight out of 10 fraudulent applications made online. 

So, we asked tech comparison company Comparitech for their advice on the main things you need to take care of while moving home in order to keep all your important details safe – and some of the points they made surprised us. You might like to read on if you're moving soon and want to avoid problems later.

Redirecting mail – start well before moving

If you receive post from your bank, HMRC, or accountant, now is the time to make sure your post is redirected to your new address. The risk here is obvious – fraudsters could get hold of the post containing sensitive information such as your banking details. 

But there's more to it than that. If you receive post from charities, retailers, or cultural organisations, these will need to be redirected too. Because so much fraud is committed online these days, criminals look to collect as much information about you as they can. First they get hold your address; then they look to establish your date of birth; next, it's your bank card details. In some cases, this may be enough to make a purchase or pose as you on a website. 

Our advice is: go through your emails and make a list of all the organisations that send you physical post: either unsubscribe or redirect.  

Dispose of all old documents and bank statements safely

Think criminals won't bother looking through your recycling? Sadly, they will – and often do. A document from 10 years ago may seem insignificant to you, but if it contains any personal information about you whatsoever, it may be valuable to fraudsters. So, if you're doing a big document cull before your move, make sure you do one of the following:

  • Put all your documents through the shredder; just ripping in half won't do;
  • No shredder? Your accountant or financial adviser – or even your local crime unit – may be able to help;
  • Hire a safe document disposal service (yes, they do exist).

Back up all important files 

This may seem like something that no one needs reminding about nowadays, but many of us still don't back up our important data. From invoices (crucial for tax records) to intellectual property (think a book manuscript or freelance work), the files on your laptop need to be backed up, ideally both on an external hard drive and on cloud storage. Laptops get lost and stolen very easily, and they also get damaged in transit during big moves. Once you've backed up your data, make sure your external hard drive travels with you in your handbag or rucksack, not in a box. 

Assess the security of your Wi-Fi network

New home means new Wi-Fi. You may think that every private home network is secure, but, if you want to be really safe, consider the following options to properly safeguard yourself from hacking:

  • Change all admin details as soon as you start using your new Wi-Fi: that means changing the admin name and password at the back of your wi-fi router;
  • Stop your network from displaying its identifier: not many people know this, but this function can be switched off, and then switched on again if you need to connect a new device;
  • Strengthen encryption and consider adding a VPN: go into your internet settings and turn on WPA2 or WPA3 encryption; setting up a VPN router will make your network even more private, encrypting parts or all of the traffic flowing to and from your devices. This option will cost you more, but for absolute peace of mind, may well be worth it.

Assess your smart tech for security issues

Perhaps you are just beginning to use smart tech in your home, or maybe you want your new home to be a full-on smart home environment with everything connected up. While tech companies do all they can to secure their devices, no device is completely hack-proof, especially if it has a camera or microphone. In some cases, inviting intruders to snoop on your home is as easy as downloading an unverified app onto your device. 

If you are a tech novice, it's best to have a company representative help you install the device. Also, avoid buying secondhand smart devices if you can; if you do go secondhand, check the device thoroughly for any signs of tampering. And if you are new to smart technology, consider starting with just one or two devices, rather than everything at once.