Identity crime is a serious issue worldwide, and is becoming one of the most common crimes in Australia. A recent study indicates that identity crime affects around 1 million people every year in Australia, and 1 in 5 people have experienced the misuse of their personal information at some stage in their lives.
To put it simply, identity crime is when a person uses or steals someone else’s identity and manipulates or reshapes it to help further a criminal act.
Some examples of identity crime include theft of a person’s personal or financial information and making up false identities and documents to assist with other crimes of fraud or money laundering. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Fraud Survey, conducted in 2010-2011, Australians had lost $1.4 billion from personal fraud. Furthermore, the survey found that in the last twelve months 1.2 million Australians aged fifteen and over had been a victim of identity fraud before the survey was conducted. This calculation has increased by 5% since 2007.
If a criminal were to get hold of your identity or personal information, they would have the power to impersonate you. They could do things such as apply for a credit card under your name, open up a bank account in your name, use your credit or debit card details to make a purchase, or several purchases, apply for a driver’s licence or passport in your name, or even enter a mobile phone contract under your name.
There are many different ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Firstly, be careful of who you provide your personal information to; if someone is asking for it, don’t be afraid to ask why they need your personal details and who will have access to your personal information. Shred and destroy your financial and personal papers before getting rid of them or store them in a secure place, such as a filing cabinet with a key, if you’d prefer to keep them. Always cover up the keypad when entering your pin number at ATM’s or EFTPOS machines; use trusted online payment websites when making online purchases; and don’t respond to scam emails or letters that promise big and/or unrealistic rewards and prizes.
When it comes to protecting your information on social networking sites, it is best to use the most secure settings. Be careful when entering personal details such as your address, date of birth or phone number, and don’t accept a random friend request from anyone.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity crime, make sure you report the issue to the police straight away. Don’t be afraid to speak up and protect yourself.
Written by Angela Hryc