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How to protect yourself from identity theft

Australians lost $1.4 billion in 2010-2011 due to personal fraud (ABS survey) which includes credit card fraud, identity theft and scams. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also estimated a total of 1.2 million Australians aged 15 years and over were victim of at least one incident of personal fraud.

Another more recent survey (AGD) found that identity theft in Australia had increased by 40% from 2011 to 2012.

Here are some simple ways you can improve the security of your personal information to avoid identity theft.

  • Install anti-virus software and/or anti-spyware software on your personal computer to prevent viruses  or unauthorised access to personal information on your computer.
  • Shred all personal information at home before disposing of it. Request that confidential documents at your workplace are shredded before being disposed of.
  • Make sure you shred or cut up expired credit or membership cards and compact disks (CDs) that contain personal data, before putting them in the bin.
  • Do not carry your Tax File Number, birth certificate or Bank PINs in your purse, wallet or store them in your mobile phone/iPhone/smartphone.
  • Don’t leave your car registration papers, driver’s license, bills etc. in the glove box of your car.
  • Put a lock on your existing letter box or switch to a PO box.

If you do have your personal information stolen, follow these steps:

  1. Report the incident to your nearest police station.
  2. Cancel any cards if you have had your wallet or purse stolen, or if your personal information has been compromised online, by contacting your bank and credit card providers immediately.
  3. Inform other relevant organistions.  Even if not all your accounts have been affected it is worth informing other lenders, banks etc  that you have been a victim of identity fraud so they can monitor your accounts more closely and ensure that the thieves do not access these too.
  4. Contact a credit reference agency and follow their suggested steps to resolve the situation and prevent it happening again.
  5. Retain all documentary evidence of fraud. Take notes, keep copies of police reports, get confirmation of conversations and actions in writing. Never send originals away in the mail – if documents are required by someone else, send photocopies.
  6. Take action to clear criminal records. Your first point of contact is the police – you may have to undergo police routines of photographing and fingerprinting to establish that you are not the same person as the person who stole your identity and used it fraudulently. You may need legal advice – Legal Aid or the Law Society in your state or territory may be able to assist.
  7. Stop further incidents by following the prevention steps above.

This week (October 13-19) is National Identity Fraud Awareness Week.   As part of the campaign, you can take a quick quiz to rate your risk of being a victim of identity theft.



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