Identity theft hits 772,000 Australian victims in past year

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Online black market is closer than you think with 1 in 5 Australians affected by identity theft

Sydney, Australia: 14 April 2015 – Personal information is currency in the underground world of cybercrime, which has managed to sting 5% of Australians – more than 772,000 people – with identity theft in the past 12 months alone[i].

A new survey[ii] by credit bureau Veda shows that almost 1 in 5 Australians (17% of the population) have had their personal information stolen at some stage. This has led to heightened fear in the community, with 4 in 5 people (82%) saying last month they were concerned about having their personal information stolen.

NSW had the highest proportion of residents who have been a victim of identity theft (19%), ahead of WA (17%), and Victoria and SA (both 15%), according to the national survey of more than 1,500 Australians.

In a bid to help people to protect  their identity online, Veda today launched the only standalone cyber-monitoring service of its kind in Australia: Identity Watch. The service monitors whether a person’s information, such as email addresses, credit cards and bank details, is being illegally traded in online forums and alerts them if their information has been compromised.

The new Identity Watch service is expected to appeal strongly to people who are active online at a cost of $3.99 per month – the average cost of a takeaway coffee.

According to Veda’s research, Gen Ys have the highest proportion of identity crime victims (20%), compared to Gen Xs (18%) and Baby Boomers (14%). Despite being at greater risk, Gen Ys were less likely to worry with 76% stating they were concerned about identity theft, trailing behind Gen Xs (86% concerned) and Baby Boomers (81%).

Fiona Long, Veda’s Head of Cybercrime, said Veda’s latest research confirmed the significant and ever-present threat posed by identity crime. She warned that those who don’t take steps to secure their personal and financial details were exposing themselves to opportunistic scammers.

“The reality is that we are all at risk of having our personal details stolen and the threat is amplified in the online world, where we can be duped by hackers without even knowing it,” she said.

“We are all doing more, and sharing more, online and if we leave ourselves vulnerable, identity thieves can steal information like passwords, personal data and financial details without our knowledge.”

Ms Long said hackers are getting more sophisticated and the number of personal data breaches is continuing to rise – with 552 million identities exposed globally due to data breaches in 2013.[iii]

“While awareness is growing, the true extent of identity crime is unknown because many incidents go unreported. The Australian Government has prioritised the issue and is likely to change legislation in late 2015 to make it mandatory for companies to report data security breaches. This will help to shine a light on the scale of the problem,” she explained.

For the average Australian victim of identity crime, the out-of-pocket losses amount to $4,101 per incident[iv], not to mention the many hours spent dealing with the consequences.

“Tellingly, our research found that more Australians are worried about identity theft than other threats such as having their car stolen or a terrorist attack. So it makes sense for people to try to safeguard themselves from something they can’t predict,” Ms Long said. 

“People can sign up for services that will alert them if their personal information is found to be compromised online. Knowing when you are at risk means you can take action before you fall victim to identity crime.” 

Another Veda study in 2014 (now released for the first time) provides further insights into the mindset of Australians. It shows that 89% of people worry about the security of their personal information when using the internet and more than two-thirds (69%) don’t trust social media to protect their information. Incredibly, 8% avoid using credit cards online as they worry about the security of their personal information.[v]

Ms Long said rather than getting anxious, Australians should be vigilant and use simple security techniques to protect themselves. “Be careful in your online interactions like shopping online and using social media sites, as these can make a big difference to how vulnerable you are to identity crime.

“Combine this with common sense at home: lock your mailbox, keep personal documents hidden and shred information before it goes in the bin – all of this will help to limit the misuse of your information.

“If you stop to think, can you ever really know how many people have seen your identity? We live in a digital world where we share information online and that comes with many benefits but also the risk that our information may be compromised. Why take a chance? Your identity is one of the most valuable assets you own, so it’s worth protecting.”

For more information visit www.identitywatch.com.au.

Social Media Hashtags:                       #IDWatchyourself

Identity Watch Facebook page:        www.facebook.com/identitywatch

Online Quiz:                                          Is your identity safe? Take the 2 minute quiz! http://www.identitywatch.com.au/quiz

Additional Information:

Identity Theft in Australia – infographic data on Australia’s attitudes and behaviour towards personal information security

Lifecyle of Your Stolen Information – infographic demonstrating a typical data theft scenario


References

[i] Identity Theft in Australia: The Current Problem. Veda Group. Omnibus Survey by The Leading Edge. n = 1511 Australians aged 18+. March 2015. Analysis based on ABS population figures of 15,443,150 Australians aged 18+ as at July 2013.

[ii] Identity Theft in Australia: The Current Problem. Veda Group. Omnibus Survey by The Leading Edge. n = 1511 Australians aged 18+. March 2015

[iii] Internet Security Threat Report 2014. Symantec Corporation.

[iv] Identity crime and misuse in Australia: Key findings from the National Identity Crime and Misuse Measurement Framework Pilot. Australian Attorney-General’s Department. October 2014

[v] Australia’s View of Personal Information Security. The Consumer Security Survey. Veda Group. Survey by The Leading Edge. n = 1022 Australians. June 2014