Identity theft is a serious crime. By stealing your identity, someone can access your bank account, apply for credit cards or loans in your name, change a home address, get a driver’s licence, and even set up a business. And thieves strike all the time.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs says that each year around 5% of Australians (1.3 million people) experience financial losses because of identity theft. Every 20 seconds an Australian is a victim of identity crime. And 21.5% of us have been a victim at some time in their lives.  

If you add online credit card fraud and other scams the losses skyrocket. ABS say that figure is over 8.5% of Aussies and over 30% of these had two or more incidents.

It is up to you to be proactive and protect yourself from identity theft.

In too many cases all you need to establish an online identity is given name, middle name, family name and date of birth. Some ask for a copy of a birth certificate, drivers’ licence, passport or some other form of proof – a utility bill, bank statement, Mobile phone account, Medicare number etc.

Most government services use the Document Verification Service (DVS) but few private organisations do. In short it is very easy to establish an online persona.

We spoke to Nick Fitzgerald, senior research fellow, ESET for his views on identity theft. The result – our top 10 tips for safeguarding your personal information:

#1 Don’t overshare on social media – especially not FakeBook

Have you ever thought about how much extra information you hand over online? For example, by default, public Facebook profiles reveal your full name, birth date, and where you work, so scammers can find out all that information with the click of a button. The best way to skirt scammers is not to let them in!

Or when shopping online why do they ask so many damned questions? For online forms, only fill out the required fields, usually marked with an asterisk (*) and it is quite permissible to lie about everything except the details needed to make a delivery.

And beware of so called FakeBook quizzes (any quiz) as they can harvest data to fill in gaps in your dark web profile.

identity theft

ACTION:

Think about what you put online and what consequences it may have today or in ten years’ time. Get into the mantra – It’s my data, don’t overshare.

Switch all your profiles to private and delete unnecessary details. Only accept friend requests from people you know and trust.

Top tip: #DeleteFaceBook

#2 Lock your real-world physical mailbox at the front gate!

This type of theft is still common today. A paper bank statement, phone or utility bill is almost all it takes to help get the 100 points of ID to set up an account or change an existing one. Cybercriminals often hire people to trawl the suburbs looking for mailbox gems.

ACTION: