Identity theft is a type of fraud which involves stealing money or gaining other benefits by pretending to be someone else. Having your identity stolen can be both financially and emotionally devastating.
Identity theft can occur in many ways—from somebody using your credit card details illegally to make purchases to having your entire identity assumed by another person to open bank accounts, take out loans and conducting illegal business under your name.
The Attorney-General's Department has produced the Protecting your identity publication to help you deal with and prevent ID theft.
Identity theft works in a range of ways—from crude methods to well organised scams.
Many of us have a wealth of personal information readily available—cards in our wallet, mail, public records, information saved in our computers and information posted on social networking sites.
Identity theft can happen easily and quickly. By leaving your personal information readily available, scammers will have easy access to this information. For example, scammers will pay people to rummage through rubbish tips and steal letters (‘dumpster diving’) to collect personal information.
However, despite your best efforts, a determined scammer can also create elaborate and cunning plans to trick you into providing your personal details. For example:
Be suspicious if anyone asks you for your personal information. Scammers will use convincing stories to explain why you need to give them money or your personal details.
Always take your time to check whether it is a genuine request. Seeking a second opinion from a family member or friend can be helpful. If you are still unsure about whether an offer or request is genuine, seek professional advice from your bank, an accountant or lawyer.
And remember, a legitimate bank or financial institution will NEVER email you asking you to follow a link or asking you for personal details. If you believe the email is genuine, telephone your bank or financial institution to let them know about the email and ask their advice. DO NOT call using any telephone number listed in the email—use a number that appears on your statement or card or in the telephone book. Many banks and financial institutions now have specialised internet security staff who can help you.
You should NEVER give out your personal or bank account details to somebody you don’t know and trust. NEVER send your credit card or bank details in an email.
Don’t be tricked by an email that looks legitimate or appears to link to a genuine website. The best defence is to delete the email before you even open it and then contact your bank.
If you receive a phone call that you think may be genuine, you should not ignore the possibility that there actually has been some fraud with your bank account or credit card. Ask the caller for details, then hang up and call your bank or credit union to tell them what has happened. Make sure the phone number you ring is genuine—use a number that appears on your statement or card or in the telephone book.
If you think your identity has been misused, you should contact your bank or credit union to let them know. You can also report a scam to SCAMwatch.
Tell your friends and family about the scam so they know what to be on the look out for if they are targeted.
Requests for your account information ('phishing' scams)
Phoney fraud alerts
Credit card scams
Spyware and key-loggers
Work from home scams