According to a recent survey, 772,000 Australians experienced identity theft in the last year, and lost an average of $4,000 each.
What thieves might do with your identity information
- Sell it in the thriving black market. The Attorney-General listed the black market prices for some key identity credentials including:
- $80 for your Medicare card
- $350 for your driver’s licence
- up to $30,000 for your passport
- Apply for a credit card
- Open a bank (or other financial services) account
- Run up debts
- Apply for social security benefits
- Apply for a driving licence or passport
- Register a vehicle, or apply for a job or mobile phone contract
How to avoid identity theft – guard your details carefully
Be email safe
Never click links on emails from anyone you don’t know – they may load malware onto your computer or take you to a fake website (an exact copy of your bank’s for example). Equally, never click links on emails which seem to be from a financial institution (or telco), even if you think it might be real. Contact the institution yourself (not using contact information from the email).
Be phone safe
Never provide personal or account details to anyone who calls or SMSs, even if they say they need to validate your identity before telling you something about your account. Phone the institution back if necessary (not using contact information from the caller). Remember also that your phone contains a great deal of information about you, so make sure you always know where it is.
Be card safe
Always cover your hand when entering your PIN at the ATM and never let anyone walk out of sight with your credit card when you’re paying for something.
Be computer safe
Make sure you have firewall and antivirus protection and never use public computers for online banking or credit card transactions.
Lie about your age! (Be social media and web safe)
- Use an incorrect date of birth whenever you sign up for anything online. Lie by a single day, or a year (or two…).
- Don’t share your date of birth, address or other contact details on social media. Be careful with your education and employment history too.
- Be careful providing identity information in online job applications.
Secure your documents
- Keep important documents in a safe place (buy a fire rated lock box or safe from your hardware store and bolt it to the inside of a cupboard or wardrobe)
- Lock your mailbox and if it is broken into, contact the police and your financial institutions
- Buy a shredder (they’re not expensive) and shred personal and financial documents before throwing them away
Keep an eye out
- Check your bank, credit card and superannuation records regularly
- Check your Credit Report – it will show you if financial institutions have been checking your credit history (which they should only do if you are applying for credit)
Want more information?
Download the Australian Federal Police’s booklet Protecting Your Identity– What Everyone Needs to Know, or take their Identity Crime Survey to see how safe you are.
If you think there might be a problem, act quickly and decisively. Contact your financial institutions and the police.