What is identity theft?

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information such as your name, drivers licence number and data of birth. Generally criminals steal identity information to steal money or gain other benefits (maybe a mortgage, a passport or a new phone account) by pretending to be someone else. They may even commit crimes in your name.

Once an identity thief has access to your personal information, they could:

  • Open new credit card accounts in your name. When the thief makes purchases on the credit cards and leaves the bills unpaid, the negative information can be reported to your credit report and could impact your credit score and your ability to get credit in the future;
  • Open a bank account in your name or create fake debit cards and use them to drain your existing bank accounts;
  • Set up a phone, wireless internet, or other utility service in your name.
  • Even try and get a copy of your credit report

Learn more: Read MoneySmart's tips to help avoid identity fraud.

How does identity theft happen?

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Identity criminals use many different methods and are getting more and more sophisticated.

Some common methods of identity theft include:

  • Steal personal information that has been shared on unsecured websites or public Wi-Fi;
  • Use of personal details and payment information provided on social media or services such as online dating.
  • Theft of mail articles including documents that may contain personal details such as bank and credit card statements and preapproved credit card offers;
  • Searches through household or commercial rubbish for documents that may contain personal details such as bank and credit card statements, preapproved credit card offers and tax information;
  • Theft of wallets, bags and purses in order to obtain identification information such as drivers licence or Medicare details, credit and debit cards;
  • Skimming of credit and debit cards via ATMs or EFTPOS terminals, stealing the information stored on a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip;
  • Internet scams designed to obtain your personal information, either through phishing emails or spoofing sites designed to replicate banking and payment sites
  • Filling out change-of-address forms to divert your mail, which generally contains personal and financial information, to a different address;
  • Use of malicious computer programs such as malware or spyware to record and transmit your online activity;
  • Telemarketing scams; and
  • Data breach by stealing records through hacking into an organisations systems.

Trending Questions

Please click here to place a ban on your Equifax credit report.

The initial ban period is for 21 days, but can be extended upon your written request if there are reasonable grounds.

If you are concerned about your identity being stolen it is important that you place a ban on your credit report with each credit reporting body in Australia.

The OAIC also have a fact sheet on fraud and your credit report: https://oaic.gov.au/privacy/credit-reporting/fraud-and-your-credit-report/