Identity theft is on the rise in the UK and reached record levels last year. The financial and reputational costs can be high and identity theft can take many forms.

Identity theft can, for example, involve fake social media pages using your personal details. This can cause serious damage to your reputation. Identity theft can also affect your financial liability and credit ratings.

What should you do if you have fallen victim?

1. Report the identity theft to your insurer, bank and any other financial institutions likely to have been affected by fraud.

2. Report the matter to the police for investigation.

3. Make a request to the host to take the content down. Most social media sites have 'report abuse' processes.

If removal via the host is not an option, there are a number of legal grounds to bring a civil claim in identity theft cases:

• Defamation - where false statements are made about you that cause serious harm to your reputation, you can seek damages for the harm caused.

• Harassment - if the imposter's behaviour causes distress, and is repeated on more than one occasion, this can amount to harassment.

• Data protection - legislation prohibits the processing of another person's data in an unlawful way.

• Privacy - if someone has published your personal information without your consent and you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the published information, you may be able to claim on the grounds of misuse of your personal information.

• Breach of intellectual property rights - if an imposter has published photographs for example online for which you own copyright, a claim based on breach of copyright could be a route to securing removal.

Ben Holt is a Partner at law firm VWV, which has an office in Clarendon Road, Watford.