Identity fraud is a growing threat in Australia, driven in recent years by the increased prevalence of online technologies and electronic storage of data. A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Attorney-General's Department revealed that nearly one in four respondents were victims of identity theft or knew someone who was a victim. In most cases, theft occurred through the loss of a credit/debit card, and via the Internet as a result of a virus.
More often than not, the misuse of false or stolen identities can allow fraudsters to purchase goods or services in a person's good name, or to obtain new lines of credit. The survey indicated that nearly 60 per cent of stolen information was used to make purchases and to apply for credit cards or loans.
As part of the National Identity Fraud Week (8-14 October 2012), illion has developed a two-part guide on combating identity theft, to assist consumers in safeguarding themselves as well as taking action against fraud that has already occurred. Below, Part One provides information on how you can protect yourself against becoming a victim of identity theft.
Review financial statements regularly
You should review financial statements on a monthly basis, not only for budgeting and tax purposes but also for the sake of fraud prevention. Regularly checking your financial statements - such as your credit card and bank statements - can help in detecting suspicious charges or withdrawals.
Dispose of information safely
When you throw something away, there is always a chance that someone will pick it up and read it, and may even use that information for illegal purposes. Ensure that you dispose of sensitive documents (anything with personal information on them) properly by shredding them. Any other documents that you still want to keep should be stored in a safe place and locked, or digitised and password-protected.
One of the biggest risks facing consumers is failing to change passwords on a regular basis, or storing passwords in publicly accessible places. Avoid using common passwords such as your mother's maiden name, date of birth, or simply '1234567'. As a general rule you should also refrain from writing passwords down on post-its or storing them in unlocked drawers. This applies to both your personal and work computer.
Check your credit report
Regularly obtaining a copy of your credit report can alert you to attempts to open an account in your name or other fraudulent activity. Checking your credit file enables you to correct any inaccuracies, lowering your risk of being rejected for future credit due to fraudulent information on your file. Get a copy of your credit report »