Identity Theft - Prevention and Response
Its a fact: Identity theft can happen to you or someone you know.
Identity theft and fraud are the fastest growing crimes globally. Together they cost Australian business $2.5 billion and $5 billion dollars respectively each year and this is tipped to rise.
For individual victims of identity crime, the impact can be devastating both emotionally and financially, as it can take years and cost thousands of dollars to restore their good names.
You should know that identity theft happens every day to people from all walks of life.
What can you do to combat this crime?
Pre-Paid Legal can provide you with Secure Sentinal, a suite of services designed specifically for your protection and peace of mind. Helping to reduce the risk of you becoming a victim to identity theft. Find out how you can best protect your possessions and identity, by becoming a member or learn more about the service on offer.
What is identity theft?
It is where a person has stolen and used personal information or assumed a pre-existing identity, with or without that person’s permission, and in the case of an individual, whether the person is alive or dead. Businesses may also be victims of identity theft. Having your identity stolen can be devastating.
Identity theft happens in a multitude of ways. It can range from somebody using your credit card details illegally to make purchases over the internet or telephone, through to having your entire identity assumed by another person to open and operate fictitious bank accounts , take out loans, and conduct other business illegally in your name.The sort of documents offenders steal are credit cards, driver’s licences, utility bills, bank and credit card statements, and any other documents containing personal information.
How it happens
Identity theft can happen in many ways. It can range from someone using your credit illegally, to having your entire identity assumed by another person and business conducted in your name without your consent. Important personal information can be accessed by a determined thief, despite your best efforts.
> Your wallet or purse is stolen with all your identifying cards,
> Your home is burgled and personal documents stolen,
> Important documents, such as bank statements, credit cards, utility bills and taxation return, are stolen from your letterbox,
> Mail is diverted to another address without your knowledge,
> Recycle rubbish bins being searched,
> Being the victim of a scam, where you have been conned into providing personal information over the telephone or by email (advanced fee fraud or phishing),
> Your personal computer may have been compromised with malicious software or hackers / criminals may compromise the computers of businesses that hold your personal information,
> Credit card details may be captured by hidden devices during an ATM or EFTPOS transaction (ATM credit card skimming) or your PIN number may be seen by someone in the queue (shoulder surfing),
> Credit cards may be skimmed at retail outlets or restaurants.
How to protect yourself
Personal information is shared almost everyday as you pay bills, log on to a computer, or engage with any number of transactions with other people and organisations. You can take an active role in reducing the risk of your identity being used without your knowledge. First, you need to recognise where you might be vulnerable and then make changes to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
> Aim to provide a minimum amount of information about yourself,
> Destroy identifying information when you are throwing out personal papers. That also includes ‘Pre-approved credit card applications’,
> Conduct regular checks / reconciliations of your billing and account records (credit card, cheque and mortgage accounts),
> Limit the amount of credit you have in your ‘everyday’ accounts,
> Obtain a copy of your credit rating report regularly,
> Place passwords on all your important accounts,
> Memorise passwords and avoid using obvious passwords
> Secure your personal information at home
> Collect new cheque books or credit cards in person from the bank
> Secure your mail with a lockable letterbox and only post mail at official post boxes
> Remove your name from mailing lists if you receive unsolicited mail
> Write cheques and fill out forms carefully so that they cannot be altered easily
> Keep a list of all your accounts and credit cards in a secure place.
> Leave anything in your car glove box that could identify you
> Provide personal information over the phone or by email to people you do not know or trust
> Let your credit card out of your sight when paying a bill
> Lend your personal documents to others
> Carry extra personal information unless you have to
> Leave your wallet / purse unattended at the gym, parties, in shopping trolleys, etc
> Send original proof of identity documents in the mail
By introducing some practical precautions into everyday life, you can take an active role in reducing the risk that your identity may be used without your consent or knowledge.
How to report identity theft
It is important to act quickly if your personal information is compromised. Identity theft can be reported to your local police station. Collect and keep any documentation that will help police in investigating the crime. Police may need to take your photograph or fingerprints to establish that your identity is different from that of the person who may be charged with the identity theft.
The following steps may also be necessary:
> Contact your bank or credit provider immediately and cancel all cards.
> Freeze or close all accounts to which the thief may have gained access
> Open new accounts with new PINs and passwords
> Contact the Credit Reporting Agency (Veda Advantage) and ask that an alert be placed on your file
> Check your credit file carefully for unauthorised transactions or changes
> Keep all documentary evidence of fraud
Identity Theft Checklist
Identity theft and fraud are the fastest growing crimes globally, and you now more at risk than you realise, with internet social media sites being the primary target for Identity Theft.
In response to the increase in identity theft, the Australian Government has produced a booklet to help business owners and individuals prevent and respond to identity theft. This booklet 'Protecting Your Identity' contains useful information to help you identify where you might be vulnerable, and what to do, to avoid becoming an identity theft victim.
Here is checklist of practices that increase the likelihood of you becoming a victim of identity theft:
> Having more credit cards in your wallet than you need
> Letting your credit card out of your sight when paying a bill
> Having an insecure home letterbox
> Having anything in your car glove box that could identify you
> Putting sensitive papers in your household garbage bins
> Giving your credit card details over the phone
> Buying goods and services on the internet
> Forgetting to check your credit report regularly
> Forgetting to change your ISP password regularly
> Keeping personal information on your computer hard drive
> Using public access computers
> Lacking a personal firewall protection
The booklet "Protecting Your Identity" suggests some simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, which includes:
Destroy all identifying information when disposing of personal papers, including all your bank statements and utility bills, such as electricity and gas bills
Don't give out your personal information over the phone or by email unless you have initiated the contact or are confident the caller is who he or she claims to be
Check accounts and other records carefully. Know when accounts are due. A late or missing account could mean a billing address has been changed and your identity has possibly been stolen
Use a separate bank account with a low credit limit for internet transactions
If by chance your identity has been compromised or stolen, the following booklet will guide you in what steps you need to take to prevent as much damage as possible and what steps to take to restore or recover your Identity. The booklet "Taking Charge - What to do if your Identity is Stolen" can be downloaded Here. If you are a victim of Identity Theft you should contact the Australian Federal Police immediately on: 131 444 for assistance, they will direct you accordingly.
If you require further information regarding identity crime you can visit the Australian Federal Police website for Identity Crime here, or become a member and we will assist you.