Identity Theft

How to prevent identity theft

How does a thief gain information?

Your wallet or purse contains personal information such as your licence, credit and ATM cards and other personal documents, that may be stolen.

Your home is burgled and your personal information and documents, or those of close family members, may be taken.

Many important documents are posted to you and can be stolen from your letterbox. For example, bank and credit card statements, new cheque books, ATM and credit cards, taxation returns or cheques.

Your mail may be diverted to another address. It is simple for a thief to use a false identity and fill in a change of address form.

Your rubbish (or that of businesses you have dealt with) may be searched. Information found in the rubbish could provide a thief with a head start in stealing your identity.

You may be the victim of a scam and be conned into providing personal information over the telephone or by email.

Your personal computer may be hacked into, or hackers may get into the computers of businesses that hold your personal information.

Your ATM or Electronic Funds Transfer Point Of Sale (EFTPOS) transactions may be monitored by hidden devices or seen by the person next to you in the queue. Your password or PIN may be noted for subsequent unauthorised use.

Your personal information may be stolen and used or sold by employees of legitimate businesses: for example, credit card skimming at retail outlets or restaurants.

Preventing Identity Theft

There are a number of very simple safeguards you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of this type of crime:

• Order a copy of your credit report regularly
• Place passwords on important accounts
• Secure your personal information
• Don't carry personal information unless you have to
• Destroy personal information before disposal
• Avoid giving personal information out over the phone, by mail, or on the Internet

Secure your mail

• Check your billing and account records regularly
• Limit the amount of credit you have in accounts
• Write cheques and fill out forms carefully
• List all account details
• Remove your name from mailing lists

Secure computers

• Use passwords
• Update your password
• Use the latest protection software
• Use a personal firewall to secure your PC when online
• Beware of unsolicited emails
• Do not follow up unsolicited emails
• Only conduct transactions with secure websites
• Wipe your hard drive
• Don't use public computers to access personal information

Actions after the theft

Victims of identity theft may not know they are victims until weeks or months after the theft has occurred. What you do when you realise you are a victim of identity theft can minimise the damage and prevent further crimes being committed. This could be through:

• reporting to the police
• contacting the credit reporting agency
• reviewing your credit file carefully
• closing all accounts and correct your credit file
• keeping all documentation
• clearing criminal records