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.
About identity fraud
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, bills,
driver's licence, passport, investment reports, superannuation
records, storage media such as CDs and 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 or SMS to 'phish' for information or
pretend to be calling on behalf of your bank 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
your account information for more details on phishing.
So how can you tell if someone is pretending to be you? Some
telltale signs are if you start receiving bills, credit cards, loan
statements or calls from creditors that you know nothing about or
if you have difficulty obtaining a credit card or a loan because of
an inexplicably bad credit rating. You might also notice that the
amount of mail you receive is decreasing - which may indicate that
items are being stolen or that mail is being redirected somewhere
Protect your identity
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 in question 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.
- 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 (Veda), CheckYourCredit.com.au (Dun and
Bradstreet) 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 or smartphone - 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 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 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.
- Make your passwords hard to guess - Use a
combination of numbers and letters and change your passwords
- 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 and bank websites and email
accounts - This is important if you bank online. If you
don't log out, anyone can access your details. Also lock your phone
with a pin or password.
- 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 use.
- 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 publication Protecting yourself
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:
- 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 (Veda), CheckYourCredit.com.au (Dun and
Bradstreet) and Tasmanian Collection Service.
- 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 fraud.
Find out how to report a scam and where to find support after being
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: 10 Jul 2015