Identity theft is the taking and using of your name and personal information, including your address, date of birth, credit card, and bank account details. It can happen online or offline through discarded or stolen documents, bills and ID.
Recent estimates by the Attorney-General’s Department indicate that identity crime costs Australia upwards of $1.6 billion each year, with the majority (around $900m) lost by individuals through credit card fraud, identity theft and scams*.
Resolving the damage may be costly and time consuming. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself and your sensitive information.
Here are a few tips to help protect yourself and minimise the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Keep passports, credit card statements and bills in a secure place at home. Store your important documents in a fire or waterproof container or a safe deposit box in case your home is burgled or damaged.
- Shred addressed documents such as bank statements, credit card receipts or bills instead of throwing them in the bin.
- Create strong passwords and update them frequently. Use random combinations of letters, numbers and special characters. Create different passwords for each account.
- Be aware of what you share on social media. Consider leaving personal details, such as your birthday or address, off your profiles. Strengthen your privacy settings and be cautious about who you accept as a connection.
- Protect your mobile device or smartphone. Be wary when installing apps onto your phone. Scammers may send you applications designed to download malicious software onto your phone.
- Don’t fall for email phishing scams from a party claiming to be trustworthy. Watch out for emails, links or unsolicited phone calls, asking for your personal information.
- Monitor your financial statements. Report any suspicious activity in your bank and credit card accounts as soon as you notice it.
- Secure your mail. Secure your mail box with a lock and collect your mail regularly. If you move house, notify the post office to redirect your mail.
- Carry only essential information. Avoid taking important documents out of your home to minimise the chance of them being lost or stolen.
- Review your credit report. Get your credit report from one of these credit reporting agencies: MyCreditFile.com.au (Equifax), CheckYourCredit.com.au (Dun and Bradstreet) and Tasmanian Collection Service. This allows you to check if your name is being used to borrow money or run up debt.
Following these guidelines can help you keep sensitive information private. Check out the Australian Federal Police website and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website for more tips and information.
Does your home insurance cover you for identity theft?
With National Seniors Classic and Prestige home insurance policies, if you take out cover for your contents, you’ll be automatically covered for identity theft. So, if you are a victim, you’ll be covered up to $5,000 towards the expenses incurred in recovering your identity^.