Identity theft can happen to any one of us. If you lose your wallet or handbag, or if your car or home is broken into, documents can be stolen and used. If you provide personal information over the internet, on social media or over the phone your personal details can also be used to someone else’s advantage.

Some things criminals can do include tricking banks into giving them access to your money, opening accounts in your name and accumulating debts, or hacking into email accounts and spamming. This could result in your reputation being ruined and/or your credit rating being affected.

Some ways to protect your identity include:

  • only carrying essential documents as and when you need them, and keeping them in secure locations;
  • destroying documents, old phones and computers before putting them in the bin; and
  • checking your bank records, superannuation records, credit card records to check for any unauthorised transactions and obtaining copies of your credit report annually.

When you are asked for personal information on the phone or internet make sure:

  • you ask why it is being collected, read the privacy policy and consider the opt out boxes;
  • you have secure passwords for online banking, and that the websites have a padlock symbol and access controls;
  • you secure your profile on social networking sites and be cautious as to which friend requests you accept.

If you do find that you are a victim of identity theft you should inform the police, and report it to the appropriate organisation. You should also get a copy of your credit report. For more assistance you should contact us, or contact the Australian Information Commissioner.