Having your identity stolen can be both financially and emotionally devastating with the impact lasting for years.
All scams have the potential for identity theft and protecting yourself from scams also means keeping your personal information safe. Most people associate scams with attempts to trick you out of money however, your personal information is also valuable to scammers who steal your personal details to commit fraudulent activities. They may even sell your information onto other scammers for further illegal use.
Look out for these common warning signs:
- Your bank statements show purchases or withdrawals you have not made.
- You stop receiving mail you may be expecting (e.g. electricity bills) or receive no mail
- You receive bills or receipts for things you haven’t purchased or statements for loans or credit cards you haven’t applied for.
- You have been refused credit because of a poor credit history due to debts you have not incurred.
- You are contacted out of the blue by someone pretending to be from a legitimate business (i.e: bank, phone or internet company) and they direct you to a fake version of the website where they ask you to enter personal details. Scammers will try trick you into handing over your data by using names of well known companies or government departments.
- You receive a call from a retailer claiming that someone is trying use your credit card. They advise you to contact your bank but they don’t hang up from their end and keep the line open. When you try to call the bank, you are still talking to the scammers who simulate a real call, imitate bank staff and ask for your account and security details. In either case, the scammer captures whatever information you give them and then uses it to access your accounts.
- Fake surveys – Scammers offer prizes or rewards such as gift cards to well-known retailers in return for completing an online survey. The survey requires you to answer a range of questions including disclosure of important identification or banking details.
- Calls where people ask you for your drivers license or passport to “prove your identity” before they can release and prize they claim you have won
Here are some tips to protect yourself and your family:
- Limit what you share online, set your social media privacy settings to ‘private’ and don’t accept ‘friend’ requests from strangers.
- Think twice before entering your personal details into a website you’re not familiar with.
- Use strong, unique passwords(passphrases) for each online account.
- Keep your devices updated with the latest software, including antivirus software.
- Don’t use Wi-Fi hotspots when you are doing something personal or sensitive on the internet as the Wi-Fi may not be secure.
- Regularly check your account statements including credit cards, bank statements, telephone and internet bills for possible fraudulent activity.
- Check your credit report at least once a year to help you catch any unauthorised activity.
- Always lock your mailbox and shred any sensitive documentation you no longer need.
- Be wary of phone calls that ask for your personal information.
- Be wary of people trying to view your PIN while you are using ATMs and making other purchases.
If you suspect any fraudulent use of your identity, there are some steps you should take:
- Immediately report it to your bank, local police, social media account’s website or other online account that you may be concerned has been hacked into.
- Lodge a report with the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s ReportCyber.
- Change the passwords on your accounts and close any unauthorized accounts.
- Request a credit report from a reputable credit reference bureau. A credit reporting body must give you access to your consumer credit report for free, once every 12 months.