Keeping it personal
Unfortunately, it has become very easy for someone to steal your
personal details and carry out illegal activities in your name.
However, you can take steps to protect yourself from identity fraud
by following the tips below.
If you think your personal information has been stolen, contact
the police immediately.
What is identity fraud or
Identity fraud is a type of fraud that involves the theft of
your personal information, including your name, date of birth,
address and other details. Fraudsters then use this information,
for example, to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, start an
illegal business or apply for a passport. Your details may also be
used to commit serious crimes, such as money laundering and even
Identity thieves are after everything that contains your
personal information: bank and credit card statements, social media
account information, bills, driver's licence, passport, investment
reports, superannuation records, storage media such as USB devices,
and any documents that contain your tax file number.
How identity theft happens
There are many ways in which people can steal your identity.
Your personal information is everywhere: on the cards in your
wallet, bills in your letter box, emails on your computer at home
and at work, and information you post on social networking
If you suddenly start receiving less mail, be cautious. This
could mean that scammers are stealing or redirecting your mail.
This makes it easy for someone to get your personal details. For
example, they can look through your garbage bins for bills and bank
statements, steal your wallet or bag, break into your letter box or
home, or hack into your computer.
Identity thieves are also becoming more sophisticated. They may
send you a letter, email, SMS or message through social media to
'phish' for information or pretend to be calling on behalf of your
bank or a government department, and trick you into giving them
information. They may install a program on your computer that
allows them to 'spy' on you and track your keystrokes every time
you use your desktop computer or laptop. See banking
and credit scams for more details on phishing.
So how can you tell if someone is pretending to be you? Some
telltale signs are:
- You start receiving bills, credit cards, loan statements or
calls from creditors you know nothing about.
- You have difficulty obtaining a credit card or a loan because
of an inexplicably bad credit rating.
- The amount of mail you receive is decreasing, which may
indicate that items are being stolen or your mail is being
redirected somewhere else.
If your social media account has been hacked, you may notice
posts appearing that you did not write, someone has logged into
your account from an unusual location, your wall is flooded with
spammy posts, and you are suddenly following a lot of new, unknown
How to protect yourself from
There are several ways in which you can stop your identity from
- Never give your personal details to people you don't
know - If you receive a call from someone who claims to be
from your bank or any other organisation, don't give them your
details. Call the organisation yourself to check it is really them
calling. Never click on a link or call a phone number in an email -
use a phone directory to look up the correct number. Also,
beware of entering competitions online where you enter your
personal information, as this could be stored and used by a
- Check your bank and superannuation statements
- If you see any unusual transactions, contact your bank,
credit card provider or super fund immediately.
- Review your credit report - Get your credit report from one of these credit
reporting agencies: MyCreditFile.com.au (Equifax), CheckYourCredit.com.au (illion)
and Tasmanian Collection Service. This
allows you to check that no-one is using your name to borrow money
or run up debts. See credit reports for
tips on how to check your report.
- Carry only essential information - Avoid
taking important documents out of your home to minimise the chance
of them being lost or stolen.
- Secure personal documents at home - Store your
important documents in a fire and waterproof container or a safe
deposit box in case your home is burgled or damaged.
- Destroy personal information - Shred or cut up
your bills, statements and expired cards to prevent thieves from
- Secure your mail - Secure your letter box with
a lock and collect your mail regularly. If you move house, notify
the post office to redirect your mail. Mail sent to the wrong
address could be used to steal your identity.
- Protect your mobile phone - Be wary when
installing applications onto your phone. Scammers may send you
applications designed to download malicious software onto your
phone and steal bank account details. See the ACCC's SCAMwatch
webpage on mobile phone scams.
Computer and mobile protection
- Keep your phone or other mobile device safe -
Treat it like a wallet and know where it is at all times. Always
lock your device with a PIN or password.
- Be careful about what information you post on social
media - Identity thieves trawl sites like Facebook, and
Twitter and other social media for personal details they can use.
Always ensure your privacy settings are set to 'friends only', and
don't accept friend requests from people you don't know.
- Always type the website address into your
browser - Don't click on a link in an email or open emails
requiring you to enter your personal information. They could be
- Be careful what information you give on social
networking sites - Identity thieves trawl sites like
Facebook and Twitter for personal details they can use.
- Disable pop-ups on your browser - People can
use pop-ups to install programs on your computer that 'spy' on you
or record your key strokes. This is how they find out passwords to
your bank and other accounts. Most internet browsers (e.g. Internet
Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari) let you block pop-ups by
selecting 'Turn on pop-up blocker' or a variation of this term
under the 'Tools' or 'Settings' menu. You can also
delete/remove certain types of ads from your social
- Make your passwords hard to guess - Use a
combination of numbers and letters and change your passwords
frequently. Avoid using the same password for multiple
- Install up-to-date anti-virus software - It
will automatically prevent, detect and remove any suspicious
programs from your computer or mobile device. Always scan devices
such as USBs or external hard drives for viruses, before opening
them on your computer.
- Log out of social media, bank websites and email
accounts - This is important if you bank online. If you
don't log out, anyone can access your details.
- Only download apps from the official app store or
market - Check to make sure the app is from a well-known
- Enable security settings on your mobile device
- Turn off wifi, Bluetooth and GPS when not in
- Never use public computers for banking or
payments - If you use a computer at a library or internet
café to look up your bank account or do online shopping, your
account details will be stored on the computer. You do not want
your important online banking details to get into the hands of
For more information on online scam protection, see the
Australian Goverment website Stay Smart
What to do if you have had your
If you think someone has stolen your identity and is committing
crimes in your name, you should:
- Change your passwords - On your email,
social media accounts, online bank log-in, and computer/mobile
device log-in. In some cases you will also need to change your
email address and close your old account.
- Report it immediately to the police - Ask for
a copy of the police report as banks and financial institutions
will want to see it.
- Contact your bank or financial institution -
Tell your bank, credit provider or the relevant company what has
happened. If any accounts have been opened with your stolen
details, ask for them to be closed or cancelled. You may need to
ask them to set you up new accounts and PINs.
- Inform the relevant government agency or business
- If your driver's licence, passport, citizenship papers,
Medicare card, birth, marriage and change of name certificates, tax
file number, superannuation or pension details have been stolen,
let the relevant agency know. Similarly, if your financial
documents or investment reports were taken, alert your stock
broker, financial planner or fund manager.
- Get a copy of your credit report -You should
tell the credit
reporting agency that you have been a victim of identity theft
so they can note it in your file. Check your credit report to see what companies have
checked your credit history recently, and let them know not to
authorise any new accounts in your name. Get a copy of your credit
report from one of these reporting agencies: MyCreditFile.com.au (Equifax), CheckYourCredit.com.au (illion)
and Tasmanian Collection Service.
- Consider placing a ban on your credit
report - You can ask each credit reporting agency to
put a temporary ban in place. During this period (initially 21
days, but can be extended), they cannot share your credit report
with credit providers without your consent.
- Get help from IDCARE - IDCARE is a
free government‑industry service which works with you to develop
specific response plans to reduce the risk and impact of identity
- Apply for a Commonwealth Victims' Certificate
Commonwealth Victims' Certificate will help support your
claim that you have been the victim of a Commonwealth identity
crime. You can provide this certificate to businesses or government
agencies to help re-establish your credentials or correct any
problems the identity crime has caused you.
Visit what to do if you've been
scammed to find out how to report a scam and where to find
support after being scammed.
Identity theft can be devastating, both
financially and emotionally. Follow the above guidelines to protect
yourself and always alert the authorities if you suspect your
details have been stolen or are being misused.
Last updated: 27 Feb 2019