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Identity theft

27/06/2023

Tips to avoid becoming a target for scammers.

Being scammed is an awful experience and unfortunately hundreds of thousands of Aussies lose their money or personal information each year.

With an increase in data breaches and sophisticated scams, it’s important to know what identity theft is, how to avoid it and what to do if your personal information is stolen.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is when someone steals key personal data such as your name, date of birth, driver licence number and other identifying information.

Criminals can then use this information to pose as you in an attempt to steal money from your accounts, open a fake bank account or apply for things such as a mortgage, passport or credit card in your name.

Having your identity stolen is not only inconvenient and upsetting, but it could significantly impact your credit rating, so preventing it from happening in the first place is key.

How does identity theft occur?

There are an increasing number of ways that identity thieves can get access to your personal information. Here are a few common ones:

  • Online shopping scams, where you’re directed to a fake site and use your credit card to buy goods that will never arrive
  • Fake messages that ask you to click on a link or call a number for various reasons (to log on, pay a fine, redirect a parcel, verify your details etc)
  • Telemarketing scams, where you take a call and are manipulated into giving someone information about yourself (or remote access to your computer)
  • Unsecured websites or public Wi-Fi that criminals can hack and access your personal information or passwords
  • Theft of mail and documents containing bank details or tax information, or data leaks
  • Phishing emails or fake websites which are built to look exactly like a legitimate online banking website and designed to get you to enter in your username and password
  • Your bag or wallet may be stolen, giving criminals access to your ID and cards.

How do you know if your ID has been stolen?

Often, victims of identity theft aren’t even aware that it’s happened to them, but there are red flags to look out for. These include:

  • Unusual charges or transactions on your accounts that you don’t recognise or didn’t authorise
  • You notice unusual activity on your social media accounts like your profile being logged out or accessed from an unknown location
  • Your mobile phone stops working and drops out of service to SOS only in areas it previously worked
  • Mail or utility bills don’t arrive as they normally would
  • You get contacted about products and services you’ve never paid for or used.

What should I do if my ID is stolen?

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, it’s important to act fast and report the crime to police as soon as you can. Make sure you note down the police report number so you can give it to your bank.

Contact your bank as soon as possible so they can block your accounts and prevent scammers accessing your money. You may also need to cancel existing cards and get replacements issued to you.

You’ll also need to change your passwords on all accounts immediately – think email accounts, social media accounts, banking logins and other key accounts that you log into regularly. Let family and friends know that you’ve been hacked, too.

Report the matter to the Australian Cyber Security Centre and be sure to access counselling services if you need it.

Reversing the damage of identity theft

It can be distressing and overwhelming to find out that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud – but there are services that can help restore your identity and credit rating.

Visit ID Support NSW for help with updating government issued IDs such as licence, Medicare card or passport. You might also be eligible for a Commonwealth Victim’s Certificate which will help support your claim that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud.

Protecting yourself from identity theft in the future

Scammers will often create a sense of urgency to catch you off guard and take advantage of people during vulnerable times. They can be very convincing and persistent, with some criminals taking the time to build relationships and impersonate fraud or security teams at legitimate companies.

Anyone can be targeted, so help protect yourself with some of the following tips:

  • Choose strong passwords and change them regularly
  • Be alert that scammers exist and don’t trust a source just because they know some of your details
  • Always buy tickets to events from authorised sellers
  • Check reviews before making any purchases online and never enter your details if you’re directed away from a site to make a payment
  • Delete suspicious texts or emails and don’t click on links asking you to verify your details or log on
  • Hang up on unexpected calls asking to gain access to your computer or device and call the company directly if you want to check if a request is legitimate or not
  • De-identify important documents before throwing them out
  • Protect your Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public hotspots when accessing online banking or providing personal information
  • Be careful about the personal information you provide online – ignore those seemingly innocent games on social media inviting you to share your name and birthday, or identifying details about yourself.
  • Regularly review your privacy and security settings on social media.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content.

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