Fraud is reportedly one of the fastest growing crimes in Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, the estimated cost of fraud to Australia is in excess of $5 billion a year, which represents almost a third of the total cost of crime in Australia ($19 billion). Identity fraud, in particular, where identities are stolen or fictitious identities are created, is becoming an increasing problem due to emerging (and rapidly evolving) technologies which enable such crimes to be committed. Not only does identity fraud pose a significant financial cost to the community (with estimates ranging from $2 billion to $3.5 billion a year) but it impacts significantly on: victims (whose identities have been stolen); financial and other institutions; and law enforcement agencies because of the difficulty in tackling such crime, and because identity fraud facilitates the commission of other types of crime such as people smuggling.
Identity fraud occurs when a person's personal information is used by someone else without their knowledge to obtain credit, goods or other services fraudulently. It can even extend to securing a passport in their name. Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in Australia and costs the Australian community billions of dollars every year. Someone could steal your identity and use it for fraudulent purposes. It’s therefore very important that you be careful who you give your licence or Photo Card details to.
How To Deal With Identity Fraud
Protection is the best deterrent against identity fraud:
- Know what is on your credit file
- Regularly monitor your credit file
- Sign all new credit cards as soon as they are received
- Store cards and personal ID items in a secure place
- Shred any paperwork that contains your personal details or account details before throwing away
- Contact your financial institution immediately if your cards or account details are lost or stolen
- Keep your Personal Identification Number(s) confidential and separate from your card
- Don't disclose your Personal Identification Number(s) to anyone
- Contact the Police, then your credit provider(s) if you discover information on your credit file has been caused by another individual fraudulently using your identity details. Keep notes of all your conversations with these bodies, including names, dates and contact numbers.
75% of Australians throw out enough personal information, such as credit card statements, in their rubbish and recycling to put them at risk of identity fraud
87% of Australians are concerned about identity theft. According to The Australian Federal Police (AFP), identity fraud costs the nation up to $4 billion a year
When it comes to concerns about identity fraud, women fear financial loss, poor credit rating, feeling personally violated and embarrassment far more than men
81% of middle Australia (household income $40k - $69k) are most likely to put themselves at risk of identity theft by throwing out personal information such as utility bills and credit card statementsPersonal information such as your date of birth, address, mother's maiden name and passwords are now as valuable as money. This is enough information for a fraudster to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards, loans and much more.
How Can Your Identity Be Stolen?
Bin raiding – Fraudsters pay people to go through the rubbish you throw out, looking for bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and tax information. Everyday information that you may not think is important such as old gas, electricity and telephone bills, insurance documents, bank statements and even personal letters and envelopes they were sent in, carry valuable personal information that can be gathered together to steal an identity. A 2007 survey commissioned by Fellows showed that an alarming 75% of Australians throw out enough personal information such as credit card statements in their rubbish and recycling to put them at risk of identity fraud.
Card skimming – This usually occurs when a shop assistant or waiter, for example, gets your information by 'skimming' or copying your credit card information when you make a purchase. They often then sell the information to professional criminal gangs. Like phishing, skimming can be used on its own to collect enough information on your credit card to use your card fraudulently without stealing your entire identity.
Corporate Identity Theft – It is not just the individual at risk, but also companies. By accessing publicly available company records fraudsters will change names of company principals and registered addresses. They will then trade off the back of the real company's good name and obtain goods and services on credit from suppliers. This is not the only area of risk. Company bank details may be in the public arena in order to encourage customers to pay for goods directly into the company's bank account. Fraudsters will obtain signatures from the public records and attempt to attack these company bank accounts by purporting to be the signatory on the account
Impersonation of the Deceased – Ruthless criminals have been known to use the identities of deceased people to carry out fraudulent activity. Fraudsters will note the age, date of birth and address of deceased people from announcements relating to the death or the funeral.
Internet Sites – Anybody that uses the internet will regularly be asked to share personal information to gain access to websites and buy goods. Fraudsters can combine the personal information you provide to unsecured internet sites such as your mother's maiden name with other bits of valuable information they glean about you to obtain credit in your name.
Phishing – This term describes identity theft via email. Fraudsters will send an email claiming to be from a bank, Credit Card Company or other organisation, with which you might have a relationship, asking for urgent information. Typically the email will ask you to click on a link to enter your account details on the company's website to protect against fraud or to avoid your account being deactivated. But if you click on the link in the email you will be taken to a website which looks genuine but has in fact been created by fraudsters to trick you into revealing your private information. The fraudsters then use the information provided to set about obtaining money from your accounts
Theft Of Wallet Or Purse– The average purse or wallet contains bank cards, credit cards and valuable identity documents including driving licenses and membership cards. Victims realise very quickly that their wallet has been stolen but often do not realise the value of the information contained within it until it is too late.
Unsolicited Contact - Phone calls claiming to be from banks asking you to update your personal information should be regarded with caution. Calling the switchboard of the company in question and asking to be put through to the person who called you will help ensure you are not playing into the hands of fraudsters. Similarly, fraudsters posing as market researchers may ask for personal information over the phone. Credible organisations will not mind you double checking their authenticity before providing such information.
Steps you should take when being a victim of Identity Fraud
The first step is to report the fraud to your nearest police station. If you have had your wallet or purse stolen contact your bank and credit card provider immediately to cancel any cards. Even if not all your accounts have been affected it is worth flagging the fact that you have been a victim of identity fraud to other lenders, banks etc. so they can monitor your accounts more closely and ensure that the thieves do not access these too. Contact a credit reference agency and follow their suggested steps to resolve the situation and prevent it happening again. Protect yourself moving forward. Invest in a confetti cut shredder and destroy all documents before recycling or binning them.
You can call Crime Stoppers to report crime anonymously with no questions asked. If you would like to report an identity theft or identity related crime you can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
If you have been a victim of Identity Fraud, please leave your comments.