Identity Theft

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WHAT IS IDENTITY THEFT? 

A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) found that 1 in 4 Australians have been a victim of identity crime. This costs Australia around $36 billion annually.

Identity theft is when personal information such as your name, driver’s license number or date of birth is stolen. Criminals often steal this information to embezzle money or gain benefits such as a bank account access, credit card number, a passport, or a new phone account. Consequently, identity theft can result in the loss of time and money and can have detrimental effects to your future. For instance, trying to secure employment or impacting your credit score negatively which will make it more difficult to acquire loans from the bank.

 

COMMON SIGNS OF IDENTITY THEFT

Victims of identity theft often do not realise their identity has been stolen until it is too late. These are some common signs to look out for:

  • Bills or charges that you do not recognise on your bank statement
  • Bank account amount is lower than expected
  • Bank calls you to validate an international transaction
  • Expected mail from the bank has not arrived
  • You receive bills, invoices or calls following up products or services you have never used
  • You have been refused a financial service, such as a credit card or a loan. This is despite having a good credit history

 

WHERE DOES IDENTITY THEFT HAPPEN

Identity theft can happen to anyone. The internet has made it easier for thieves to use information they have stolen, without any personal interaction. Some common methods of identity theft include:

  • Stealing personal information that has been shared through unsecured websites or public Wi-Fi
  • Using personal details and payment information provided on social media or services such as online dating platforms
  • Stealing mail or searching through household or commercial rubbish for documents that may contain personal details such as credit card offers and tax information
  • Skimming credit or debit cards via ATMs or EFTPOS terminals
  • Internet scams designed to attain personal details either through phishing emails or spoofing sites which are designed to replicate banking and payment sites
  • Telemarketing scams. Like where you get a call from the ATO asking you about your tax return.
  • Data breaches through hacking into organisations systems

  

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR IDENTITY IS STOLEN

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, it is important to act quickly to rectify the situation.

  • Report it to the police and immediately. Ask for the police report number to give to your bank
  • Contact your bank so they can block the account. This will stop the scammer from gaining further access to your money. Any credit or debit cards linked to that account will also need to be cancelled
  • Change your passwords to all your accounts
  • If your social media or email accounts have been taken, alert family and friends and tell them to block this account
  • Report it to the ACCC’s Scamwatch. This platform collects data on scams in Australia and reporting it allows them to create alerts to inform the community
  • Contact IDCARE which is a free and trusted service that will develop a plan with you to minimise the damage of identity theft.

 

HOW TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT

There are a few simple steps one can take to reduce the risks of having personal information stolen such as:

  • Make your passwords strong. Check here: http://www.passwordmeter.com/
  • Change your passwords regularly
  • Use ‘two factor authentication’ where possible
  • Banking Apps on your phone are safer than using internet banking. Use physical security such as thumb print recognition to access Apps.
  • Securing important documents by placing a lock on your mailbox so nothing can be stolen
  • Destroying personal and financial papers before you throw them away
  • Not using public computers or wi-fi to do internet banking or payments
  • Ensure virus ad security software on your computers and mobile devices is up-to-date and current
  • Only use trusted online payment websites
  • Regularly review bank statements and report any unauthorised transactions
  • Use strong passwords with a combination of numbers, symbols and capital and lower-case letters

 

OTHER TRICKS TO PREVENT FINANCIAL LOSS

  • Have two or more bank accounts. Pay yourself into one and transfer small amounts into the account you use for internet payment or credit card transactions.
  • Always check thoroughly before responding to an email from a bank, payment facility [like paypal] or other emails from companies [ATO, CentreLink etc.], as they could be phishing for data or bank details.
  • Never pay money to someone you don’t know. Like the famous “I’m a wife of an African Dictator and I need your help to park $80 million dollars”.
  • Don’t give your passwords away. 

– 23 December 2020 –

Here’s a cool little video we found and how easy it is for some to get your password.

 

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