Safeguard your identity

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    Identity theft

    Identity theft occurs when a fraudster gains access to your personal information (such as your name, address, date of birth or bank account details), without your consent to steal money or gain other benefits. 

    It may be something as simple as unauthorised use of your credit card, accessing your bank account, using your personal details, sending emails from your email account, and even using your identity to commit crimes and evade the law.

    If you're a victim of identity theft, it can lead to fraud that can have a direct impact on your personal finances and could also make it difficult for you to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved.

    How can someone steal my identity?

    There are many ways for your identity to be hijacked but the objective is always the same: someone trying to gather your personal information.

    This may happen through an email or phone call where the thief pretends to be from a charity, a bank, your service provider or even a government agency. Beware of unsolicited phone calls or emails that ask personal information.

    Hijacked Facebook accounts and email addresses are often used by people impersonating your friends and loved ones asking for money or information. Or they may send you an email with an attached virus that captures your password and personal information.

    It can also happen on a very personal level when someone gains access to the information in your wallet, your mail or from your personal documents.

    Just how big a problem is identity theft?

    Identity theft is the fastest growing crime worldwide:

    • 1.2 million Australian’s 15 years or older have been victims of at least 1 identity fraud incident.
    • Identity theft continues to be the key enabler of organised crime which costs Australia $15 billion annually.

    How can I protect myself from identity theft?

    Here are some simple things that you can do to help safeguard your identity:

    • Make sure you have a secure place to store your personal documents.
    • Destroy excess personal information kept physically.
    • Do not just throw personal information away, shred it first.
    • Regularly review your bank statements to check for anything unusual. Report suspicious transactions immediately.
    • When using an ATM cover your PIN and check the machine to see if there is anything strange or other not quite right fixtures attached to it.

    For online security

    Here are some helpful tips to ensure you are secure online:

    • Install anti-virus software on all devices where possible and ensure that routine scans are scheduled;
    • Try to avoid public access computers in the internet cafes for internet banking;
    • Use only trusted payment systems and secured websites;
    • Be wary of stange emails offering deals that seem too good to be true or threaten a sense of urgency to comply with a demand. Even if the email appears to be coming from someone you trust, if it seems suspicious, treat it as suspicious;
    • Never provide personal information to anyone who emails or calls you;
    • Create long (minimum 14 character) and unique passwords and store them in a password manager. If you suspect that your details have been caught up in a data breach, this is when password resets should be enacted;
    • Be careful about what you provide on social media and in emails;
    • Delete excess personal information kept online;
    • Enable 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) on all online accounts that support it;
    • Enable Full Disk Encryption (FDE) on personal computers;
    • Make sure that software updates are regularly installed for all of your devices.

    But most importantly always be cautious as to who you provide your personal information to. Think: Is there a legitimate reason for me to give out this information?

    Victim's support

    Recovering your identity

    If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, or that your identity may have been compromised, it is important that you act quickly to limit the fraudulent use of your identity. 

    You should take the following steps to minimise the fraudulent use of your identity. 

    1.    Contact the IDCARE identity and cyber crime support centre

    IDCARE (“Identity Care Australia & New Zealand Ltd”) is a joint and public-private partnership organisation whose primary object is to support the interest of victims of identity theft and misuse, offering personalised support to individuals that are concerned about their personal information. 

    IDCARE provides a free and anonymous service to the community in response to identity and cyber crimes and will provide you with specific information and pathways to respond to your given circumstances without you having to find out yourself.

    IDCARE is a partner of the Registry and provides support for a range of identity theft issues, including those related to the Registry.

    You can phone IDCARE between 8am and 5pm AEDT, Monday to Friday on:

    2.    Report it to the police

    All incidents of identity theft should be reported to your local police. Ask for a copy of the police report or reference number because banks, financial institutions and government agencies may ask for it.

    You can also report identity theft incidents online via the Australian Cyber Crime Online Reporting Network

    3.    Report the loss or theft of identity credentials to the issuing organisation

    Contact the government or private sector agency which issued the identity credential if you have lost it or if it has been stolen.  Identity credentials include anything which can be used to identify you, such as your birth certificate, driver licence, credit cards, or digital credentials (e.g. a username and password).

    If you think someone has misused certificates issued to you by the NSW Registry and your identity has been compromised due to a stolen certificate, email:

    4.    Alert your bank or financial institution

    Contact your bank or financial institution immediately and cancel all cards and accounts that may have been breached.

    5.    Get a copy of your credit report

    Contact a credit reporting agency (using this link takes you to the iDCare information sheet where it suggests to request a free credit report from ALL credit reporting agencies as some may gather credit information others have missed) to check for unauthorised transactions. It is advisable to check your credit report at least once per year for unauthorised inquiries made into your credit history.

    Inform the credit reporting agencies that you are a victim of identity crime and consider asking for an alert to be placed on your file so you are notified of requests for credit. 

    A credit reporting agency is required by law to place a freeze on your credit report whilst the fraud is being investigated and to destroy any information contained in your credit report that has been ‘tainted’ by fraud. See more information including how to contact these credit report agencies.

    You can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commission on 1300 363 992, or view their Privacy fact sheet "37: Fraud and your credit report".

    6.    Close all unauthorised accounts

    Contact the credit providers and businesses with which any unauthorised accounts have been opened in your name. This may include phone and utility providers, department stores and financial institutions. Inform them you have been a victim of identity theft and ask them to close the fraudulent accounts.

    7.    Close any fraudulent or breached online accounts

    Most websites, including social networking sites and online trading sites have a help section that contains specific advice about what to do if your account has been hacked or a fake account has been set up.

    8.    Keep a log of all of your interactions with Government and Business

    9.    Be on the look out

    Keep an eye on increased telephone and email scams and talk to family and friends.

    10.  Consider whether you may need a Victim's Certificate

    A victims' certificate may help you to overcome problems in your personal and business affairs caused by identity crime. Victims' certificate schemes are available to victims of state and territory identity crimes in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.

    If you are a victim of crime involving a NSW identity crime offence, you can apply to a Local Court for a victims' certificate.  

    11.  If your Tax File Number has been used in a scam

    Alert the Australian Tax office or if you are a child ask your parents to help you with this.

    Where can I learn more about identity theft?

    The Department of Home Affairs has information about Protecting and Recovering your Identity. This includes a pamphlet, guide, video and infographic on how you can prevent yourself becoming a victim of identity theft. 

    The Australian Federal Police website has more information on Identity Crime and how to prevent it.

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Scamwatch includes information on how to recognise, avoid and report scams that attempt to gain your personal information such as identity theft, phishing and hacking. 

    Go to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) to securely report cybercrime (such as hacking, online scams, online fraud, identity theft, and attacks on computer systems). They also have a section on recognising and avoiding cybercrime.

    The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner has information to protect your children's personal information online. 

    You can report scams on Scamwatch. You should also alert your friends and family to the scam.