Jean-Baptiste Bres

Chief Information Security Officer

๐Ÿ’ก What is Identity Theft? (a beginner guide)

With Christmas coming fast, it is a great time to remember identity crime is a critical threat to the everyone. This crime type generates significant profits for offenders and causes considerable financial losses to individuals, private industry and governments.

Recent estimates by the Attorney-General's Department indicate that identity crime costs Australia upwards of $1.6 billion each year, with the majority (around $900m) lost by individuals through credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.

More alarmingly, identity crime continues to be a key enabler of serious and organised crime, which in turn costs Australia around $15 billion annually.

Identity crime is a lucrative business. Stolen identities can be used for multiple purposes, such as applying for credit card, opening a bank or building society account (usually for money laundering), run up debts or obtain a loan, apply for any benefits (e.g. housing benefit, new tax credits, income support, job seeker's allowance, child benefit), apply for driving licence and or register a vehicle (useful for stolen cars), apply for a passport or a mobile phone contract…

Preventing Identity Thief

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to reduce the risks of having your personal information stolen or misused:
๐Ÿ“ฌ secure your mailbox with a lock and make sure mail is cleared regularly. Identity thieves often break into mailboxes to gather personal information and initiate their crimes.

๐Ÿ”’ secure your online accounts, using unique strong password and multifactor authentication when available

๐Ÿงพ shred or destroy your personal and financial papers before you throw them away, or keep them in a secure place if you wish to retain them

๐Ÿง always cover the keypad at ATMs or on EFTPOS terminals when entering your PIN, and be aware of your surroundings- is anyone trying to observe or watch you, are there any strange or loose fixtures attached to the machine or terminal?

๐Ÿฆ  ensure that the anti-virus and security software on your computers and mobile devices is up-to-date and current

๐Ÿ–ฅ don't use public computers (for instance, at an internet cafe), or unsecured wireless 'hotspots', to do your internet banking or payments

๐Ÿ’ธ be cautious of who you provide your personal and financial information to-ensure that there is a legitimate reason to supply your details. Don't be reluctant to ask who will have access to your information and which third parties it may be supplied or sold to. Ask to see a copy of the Privacy Policy of the business before you supply your details

๐Ÿ› only use trusted online payment websites for items won at online auctions or purchased online. Never make payments outside of trusted systems-particularly for goods which you have not yet received

๐Ÿ”Ž regularly review your bank statements and obtain a copy of your credit history report. Report any unauthorised transactions or entries ASAP

๐Ÿ’ณ ask your bank or financial institution for a credit or debit card with an embedded 'micro-chip'-they are more secure than cards with only magnetic stripes

๐Ÿ“ง don't respond to scam emails or letters promising huge rewards if bank account details are supplied, or in return for the payment of 'release fees' or 'legal fees'

๐Ÿ–ฑ be aware of SPAM and do not click on links if you are not sure of the sender.

๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿ’ผ if responding to an online employment or rental advertisement, be wary of transmitting personal information and copies of documents via email or electronically. If asked to attend an interview, do some prior research to confirm the legitimacy of the company or employment agency

๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿ’ป in relation to social networking sites, always use the most secure settings. Take extreme care if placing personal details such as date of birth, address, phone contacts or educational details on your profile, and don't accept unsolicited 'friend' requests

Signs of identity theft

You may become a victim of identity theft if you have lost or had stolen important documents such as your passport or driving licence, or if mail expected from your bank has not arrived or you are receiving no post at all.

You may already be a victim of identity theft if:
  • items have appeared on your bank or credit card statements that you don't recognise
  • you applied for a government benefit but are told that you are already claiming
  • you receive bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven't asked for
  • you have been refused a financial service, such as a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history
  • a mobile phone contract has been set up in your name without your knowledge
  • your current mobile phone contract is being cancelled or transferred to another provider without your approval
  • you have received letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren't yours.

What to do?
If you believe you are being a victim of identity theft, here are some of the actions you should consider:
  • report the matter to your local police
  • inform your Banks & Financial services providers
  • change passwords for your online services:
  • Bank Accounts
  • Superannuation account
  • Medicare Account
  • MyGovID
  • Personal Insurance account
  • Personal accounts - Google, Microsoft, Apple
  • Social accounts - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Other personal use accounts - Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.
  • Utility Accounts - Gas, Electricity, Wifi, Personal phone account
  • deactivate your credit cards
  • run a full virus scan on your personal laptop
  • notify people about being hacked - they might receive illegitimate emails from your account
  • request a certificate for victims of Commonwealth identity crime (see below)

If you have been a victim of identity crime and your card is still in your possession, you shouldn't have to pay for anything bought on it without your permission (subject to the terms and conditions of your account).
If your card has been reported lost or stolen, you will usually not have to pay, unless it can be shown that you have acted fraudulently or without reasonable care, for example by keeping your PIN number written down with your card. The same applies to any money lost through fraudulent bank transactions.

The Attorney-General's Department administers a scheme associated with the provision of certificates where an individual or a business is the victim of Commonwealth identity crime.
If you are a victim of identity crime and you have a Commonwealth Victims' Certificate, you may present the certificate and any other relevant information to a government agency or other organisation. The certificate will help support your claim that you have been a victim of Commonwealth identity crime and will allow you to seek assistance in rectifying problems you have suffered as a consequence of the crime. The certificate doesn't, however, bind an organisation to take action.

This article is not legal or regulatory advice. You should seek independent legal advice on your legal and regulatory obligations. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Xinja or its staff.