Identity theft refers to stealing another person’s name or other personal information, usually for financial gain.
Use this guidance to learn how to protect yourself from identity theft.
Tip: Don’t share your personal details in email, SMS or on social media networks with people you don’t know or trust.
Identity theft is a serious crime that can have damaging and far-reaching effects for its victims. By stealing your identity, a person may access your bank account, obtain credit cards or loans in your name, and potentially ruin your credit rating and reputation.
But consequences go beyond financial and reputational impacts and can be just as serious. For example, using your identity someone could wrongly claim government benefits in your name (serious fraud); use your name to plan or commit criminal activity; or pretend to be you in order to embarrass or misrepresent you, such as through social media.
Identity theft can be both financially and emotionally distressing for victims. Once your identity has been stolen it can be difficult to recover. You may have problems for years to come.
Protect yourself from identity theft
Your reputation is currency for criminals online who might use it for financial gain, or to hide their own criminal activity.
Protect your personal information and take steps to regularly check for wrongful use of your identity.
- Check your privacy and security settings on your social networking profile and never give away your account details. Learn more about protecting your personal information and privacy.
- Use strong, unique passwords for each online account – the personal information you put in your social networking profile could even be used by scammers to guess your passwords. Learn how to create strong passwords.
- Don’t accept requests to connect from strangers – the best way to keep scammers out of your life is to never let them in.
- Don’t use public computers to access your personal information. Always remember to clear the history, close the web browser and log out before you leave.
- Don’t use Wi-Fi hotspots for sensitive internet use as they are often not secure. Learn more about using public Wi-Fi networks safely.
- Check your account statements - including credit cards, bank statements, telephone and internet bills - for possibly fraudulent activity.
- Check your credit report at least once a year – this can help you catch any unauthorised activity.
What to do if you think your identity has been stolen
If you suspect any fraudulent use of your identity, there are some steps you should take:
- Immediately report it to the website operator or agency who issued the statement (e.g. bank or social networking site), your ISP and your local police.
- Lodge a report with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).
- Change the passwords on your accounts and close any unauthorised accounts.
- Request a credit report from a reputable credit reference bureau.
Learn more about what to do and where to get help:
The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) is a national policing initiative of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. It is a national online system that allows the public to securely report instances of cybercrime. It will also provide advice to help people recognise and avoid common types of cybercrime – including identity theft.
IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s national identity support service. IDCARE offers personalised support to individuals who are concerned about their personal information.
They also work with government and industry (large and small) to independently assess their capacity to respond to contemporary and emerging identity theft and misuse risks – whether physical or online. IDCARE does this to lift the standards of response, which in turn, will mean that the impact to clients and consumers from risks to personal information is lessened.
Find out more about IDCARE by visiting www.idcare.org
Find out more:
- Protecting Your Identity pamphlet (Australian Government)