Identity Theft

Learn more about steps you can take to prevent identity theft and manage your identity

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information, such as your name, driver’s licence number or data of birth. Criminals typically steal this information in order to thieve money or gain other benefits (maybe a mortgage, a passport or a new phone account) by pretending to be someone else. Identity thieves 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

  • Try and get a copy of your Equifax Credit Report

 

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

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:

  • Stealing personal information that has been shared on unsecured websites or public Wi-Fi

  • Using of personal details and payment information provided on social media or services such as online dating

  • Thieving mail articles including documents that may contain personal details such as bank and credit card statements and preapproved credit card offers

  • Searching 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

  • The theft of wallets, bags and purses in order to obtain identification information such as driver’s licence or Medicare details, credit and debit cards

  • Skimming credit and debit cards via ATMs or EFTPOS terminals. (Skimming refers to 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

  • The use of malicious computer programs such as malware or spyware to record and transmit your online activity

  • Telemarketing scams

  • Data breach by stealing records through hacking into an organisations systems

Identity theft can be a stressful, time-consuming and costly experience. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise that their identity has been stolen until it’s too late to protect their Credit Record. If you believe that someone may have used your identity details to fraudulently obtain credit you should act immediately.

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Request a copy of your Equifax Credit Report to check that the information relates to applications for credit that you have in fact made

  • Contact any credit providers listed on your Equifax Credit Report that you do not know or have not applied for credit with so that they can investigate and take appropriate and prompt action

  • Contact Equifax (and other credit reporting bodies) to put a ban on your consumer credit information

  • Contact the police and report the crime

 

When dealing with a possible identity theft it is important to keep records of the conversations you have and keep notes, including:

  • name/s of the individual

  • contact number

  • the date you spoke to an organisation

  • details of the conversation

 

You should also ask questions to the people you speak to so you can understand the process. Each credit provider may have their own processes for handling fraud. Note these requirements so you can comply.

 

Learn more: OAIC fact sheet on fraud and your credit report

To help protect your identity, we’ve put together the following P.R.O.T.E.C.T checklist.

Post

  • Reduce the risk of postal fraud by installing a secure mailbox

  • Arrange for your mail to be held at the post office whenever you go away. If you are moving house, arrange for your mail to be forwarded and let companies such as banks, credit card and utility companies know your new address

  • After you've read important documents and no longer need them, shred them before throwing them out

  • Consider electronic statements, it helps protect the environment as well

 

Review

  • Check your bank accounts each month and investigate any suspicious activity, such as small payments to unknown companies or people

 

Online

  • Don’t reveal passwords and personal identification information online, such as your birth date, full name, mother's maiden name or your phone number

  • If you use social media sites like Facebook, make sure your privacy and security settings are updated so only ‘friends’ can access your page

 

Track

  • Regularly check your Equifax Credit Report which you can get for free here and consider subscription plans from Equifax that includes a Credit alert service, notifying you when certain changes are made to your Equifax Credit Report

  • Consider an identity focussed subscription plan from Equifax that includes Identity Watch, a cyber monitoring service. If your personal information is found to be compromised online you will be alerted

 

Eliminate

  • Shred paperwork containing personal information or account details, including bank and credit card statements, phone and energy bills

 

Computer

  • Always use secure sites when paying for purchases or transferring money online

  • Install security software and keep it updated to protect your computer from hackers, scammers and viruses

  • Never open any attachments from unreliable sources, or unusual messages or files from people you don’t know

 

Tell

  • Immediately inform your credit providers if you notice any suspicious activity in your financial accounts

If a business that stores your personal data notifies you that it has been the victim of a data breach, it’s a good idea to check your Equifax Credit Report ASAP which you can obtain for free here. You may also want to consider taking out a subscription plan from Equifax which includes Credit Alerts and Identity monitoring services. Credit alerts can provide an early warning if someone tries to apply for credit in your name. Identity monitoring means you will be notified if Equifax discovers your personal information is being illegally traded online.

You can also place a ban on your Credit Report  to help prevent fraudulent accounts being opened in your name. While a ban is in force, credit providers cannot view your Credit Report without your specific written permission.

Learn more: OAIC fact sheet on data breach guidance for consumers

Identity Theft

Identity theft can be a stressful, time-consuming and costly experience. Unfortunately, many people dont realise that their identity has been stolen until it's too late. Learn about steps you can take to better protect yourself
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