Identity Fraud In Australia
Identity fraud is very common, and is recognised as one of the most prevalent crimes affecting the Australian community today. Serious damage occurs as a result of these crimes, and everybody should be aware of identity crime in order to take steps to minimise the risk of being targeted, and to help minimise losses if you do become a victim. Keep alert, keep cautious, and keep your personal and sensitive information stored safely.
What Is Identity Fraud?
Identity fraud is the crime of one person taking another person’s information without their consent, and using it for personal gain and/or criminal activity. It is also referred to as identity theft and identity crime, and can happen to anybody, anywhere, at any time.
There are operations in place across industries to try to minimise the risk of identity fraud. Identity verification systems are commonplace across multiple industries to make sure that an individual is correctly identified where necessary. With an Australian Police Check for example, there is a strict criteria to assess the identity of the person applying for a police check online. This stops criminals from using stolen details to access the results of a criminal record check.
What Is Personal Information?
Personal information refers to certain information that identifies a person. If this information is stolen, it can be used to impersonate the individual.
Personal information can include:
- This includes first name, surname, middle names, maiden name and any other previous names
- Date and place of birth
- Residential address history
- Phone numbers and email address
- Banking information
- Credit information
- Any financial information
- IP address
Other personal information about an individual is treated as sensitive information. Sensitive information can include:
- Criminal record
- Health information
- Genetic information
- Political and religious beliefs
- Sexual orientation
What Is Identity Fraud Used For?
Identity fraud is commonly used for organised criminal activity, or to benefit the thief personally.
Examples of what identity fraud might be used for include:
- Opening bank accounts
- Applying for credit cards, loans and state benefits
- Financial transactions
- Applying for identity documents such as passports and visas
- Applying for jobs that require a criminal background check
- Tax evasion
- Money laundering
- Protecting the real identities of criminals
What Will A Thief Do With My Information?
With the right information, an identity thief could use your personal details for a number of purposes to benefit themselves and leave you at a loss. Examples of common crimes using the stolen information of others are:
- Applying for credit cards
- Applying for loans
- Opening accounts
- Applying for state benefits
- Spending your money by using your credit or debit card to make purchases
- Applying for documents such as a passport or drivers licence
- Registering a vehicle
How Do People Commit Identity Fraud?
Unfortunately, identities can be stolen from accessing personal information, such as your date and place of birth, your names, bank details and any other sensitive information.
Opportunities for fraud offences vary, with many being more accessible via digital means. Criminals and fraudsters often target individuals online through scamming techniques and from hacking non-secure identity verification systems.
What Are The Dangers Of Identity Fraud?
Identity fraud is a highly dangerous crime which can result in many risks which have a direct impact on those who are targeted. This can include:
- Financial loss
- Damages to credit history
- Prevent you from taking out loans, credit cards or other financial benefits
- Damage of reputation
- Damage to work and personal life
- Impact on future job opportunities
If wrongfully accused, more serious cases could link you directly to criminal activity and result in convictions and even imprisonment.
How Common Is Identity Fraud In Australia?
According to the Department of Home Affairs, identity crime is one of the most prevalent crimes occurring in Australia, with 1 in 4 citizens falling victim to such crimes. It is a serious threat to Australian society, resulting in extreme financial loss to individuals, corporations and in some cases the government. Criminals even target individuals who are deceased for their personal information.
How Can I Prevent My Identity Being Stolen?
Anybody can find themselves a victim of identity fraud, but there are steps which can be taken to lower the risk. Some simple security measures make it more difficult for a criminal to access your information.
Here are some general do’s and don’ts of simple security that go a long way in the fight against identity theft.
- Have all mail delivered to a secure location, or add a lock to your mailbox if possible
- Check your bank statements carefully
- Always log out of online banking
- Report any suspicious activity as soon as possible
- Be aware of people around you at ATM machines and keep your PIN number out of sight
- Keep the software of digital devices updated including your phone and computer
- Stay alert when providing any sort of personal information, and be cautious of who you are giving it to and why
- Always be cautious online of scammers and criminal activity
- Use strong passwords
- Take precautions when using social media platforms, such as limiting the information that is public on your profile
- Ignore emails and texts which sound too good to be true – they usually are
- Don’t leave any private letters or papers such as bank statements lying around. Such papers should always be destroyed before being thrown away
- Don’t give out personal information such as banking details over text message
- Avoid using devices which do not belong to you to access your bank accounts or other sensitive information
How Will I Know If My Identity Has Been Stolen?
There are some telltale signs of your identity information having been tampered with or misused. It is important to regularly check your bank statements, credit score and open letters to spot any suspicious activity.
Stolen documents or information should be reported to authorities immediately, as well as lost documents.
Some examples of suspicious activity include:
- Money transactions or purchases appearing on your bank statements which you didn’t authorise
- A change with your credit score due to debt that you don’t recognise
- Bills for products or services you haven’t purchased or used
- Notification of debts or payments that you don’t recognise
What Is Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is the term used to describe crimes that use computers to facilitate criminal activities. This means that the computer itself is a target or the computer is used to commit the crime. For example, hacking into software systems for specific corporations is an attack on the computer, while fraud committed online is a crime that uses computers.
Technology is now a vital part of society with many benefits. However, it does open up a whole new world of opportunity for criminals to commit offences. Cybercrime is a real threat, and criminals can act silently, hidden behind computers to protect their identity while operating across the world at multiple times and hours. Their crimes can be concealed along with their identities through hacking methods and scamming techniques.
Online fraud is a hugely common crime in Australia. Systems are in place to monitor cyber criminal activity and prevent organised attacks. The financial industry is a particular target as money is generally the objective for criminals targeting banking systems whether for individuals or bigger organisations.
Identity fraud is a common example of cybercrime if the act has been committed online. Other examples of cybercrime include:
- Online abuse or cyber-enabled abuse including bullying, harassing and stalking online
- Online image abuse such as the sharing of intimate images without consent
- Phishing scams
Keeping Safe On Social Media
Generally, most people do not think about the dangers associated with social media accounts. Unfortunately, cybercriminals can use your social media to gather information about you. You should be cautious of what you put online, and consider using some security measures.
Here are some tips to using social media platforms safely:
- Limit the information that you share on social media
- Avoid sharing private information such as your home address, family addresses, schools or car registration number
- Consider keeping your accounts private from people you don’t know and trust. This can stop cybercriminals from viewing your profile and stealing your information
- Ignore friend and message requests from people you do not know
- Do not give your personal information away via social media platforms. Cybercriminals will often impersonate companies and businesses on these platforms
- Keep passwords strong
- Use a different password for each account
- Keep software updated on your phone and computers
What Should I Do If I Am A Victim Of Identity Fraud?
If you believe you have been a victim of identity fraud or suspect that your information has been compromised, it is extremely important to handle the situation immediately. Contact local authorities as soon as possible to report it, and they will assist you further and support you with what to do next.
When it comes to identity fraud, timing is crucial. The quicker you act, the better chance you have of minimising damages. You should also change your passwords.
Recovering From Identity Fraud
There are some support systems in place for victims of identity crime in Australia. The most important thing to begin handling this crime is to take action immediately by filing a police report with authorities. Once reported, the victim can then begin to amend the damage and try to recover.
iDcare is a national support service for identity and cybercrime in Australia and New Zealand. Working as a not-for-profit charity, iDcare helps thousands of individuals and organisations who are suffering as a result of the damages caused by identity crimes. The service can assist with a range of areas including credit history, reputation damage and offers useful and important information about such crimes.
Visit the iDcare website for further information.
Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate
If you have suffered from identity crime against you or your business, you could be eligible for a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate.
A Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate is a document issued to support an individual or business who claims to have been a victim of identity fraud in Australia. The certificate is used to support claims, and can be given to companies such as a credit agency, government agency or other relevant agency to help prove your case. The certificate provides details of the case surrounding the crime.
Identity fraud can seriously damage your reputation, records and credit history. Presenting a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate can help to repair and rebuild your reputation with the different agencies. It serves to support your claims, and prove to organisations that any fraudulent activity within their services was not committed by you.
While it is not guaranteed that action will be taken, it may help to correct problems and rectify the damages. Sometimes fraudulent actions can be erased from your records, or your credit rating can be rebuilt to where it was before the crime.
Further information on Commonwealth identity crime can be found on the Department of Home Affairs official website.
Identity fraud in Australia is one of the most widely reported crimes, impacting many citizens each year. It is a complex crime that can take many forms, with dire consequences that not only result in financial harm, but mental harm to those dealing with the damages in the aftermath. Taking small precautions during day to day tasks can help to protect you and your family from criminals seeking to steal your information.