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ID Theft

Learn how to help protect yourself against identity theft

December 2, 2022

Being aware of the risks and taking the right steps to protect yourself reduces the risk of your identity being stolen.

Identity theft in Australia is a big problem. While we enjoy the many benefits that an increasingly digital life offers, it also raises new and unexpected risks. The combination of new technology and the amount of information we share online means this type of crime causes considerable damage.

According To the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 11% of Australians experienced personal fraud in 2020-2021. That was an increase of 8.5% from the last survey in 2014-2015. While 55% of Australians reported exposure to scams in the year from July 2020-June 2021.

To help protect yourself you need to raise your awareness and take the right steps to strengthen your cyber safety. Understanding identity theft, its impact, how scammers will target you, and what to do when you suspect your accounts are compromised will help.

What is identity theft?

In identity theft, fraud or crime, threat actors use personal information such as addresses and birthdates, usernames, and passwords, to obtain benefits without consent. The Australian federal police noted that once criminals have access to your information they can:

  • apply for a credit card in your name
  • open a bank or building society account in your name
  • apply for other financial services in your name
  • run up debts or obtain a loan in your name
  • apply for any government benefits in your name 
  • apply for a driving licence in your name
  • register a vehicle in your name
  • apply for a job/employment in your name
  • apply for a passport in your name
  • apply for a mobile phone contract in your name 

Because of this, victims can experience severe financial issues, who after discovering that their identities have been stolen and financial details been compromised, must act quickly to limit further damage. 

What are the impacts of identity crime in Australia? 

While cyber-criminality will mostly cause direct financial impact, victims can also suffer emotionally, physically, and socially. 

Financial: Depending on the level of access and damage that criminals have, the financial impact will vary. For some, the burden will pass quickly, while for others it can have a cascading impact on their life. Ensuring all the affected accounts are aware of fraud and proving you were attacked can also be financially taxing.

Emotional: Initially many victims will feel anger following identity theft, this may then be replaced with other difficult emotions, such as anxiety and despair. Cybercriminals can commit crimes while pretending to be you, harming your reputation, and making it stressful to fix. The financial toll of this crime can also have a direct emotional impact. 

Physical: Experiencing cybercrime is not limited to the internet, with victims sometimes feeling unsafe after such a stressful event - this stress can present in a physical form. Additionally, thieves could have accessed and manipulated your medical benefits and records, which could result in further issues.

Social: There is a risk of scammers hurting your relationships and networks. People who use social media for leisure or for work are at risk as criminals could damage your reputation or put your job on the line by posing as you. Additionally, the stress and financial impact can directly threaten your personal relationships. 

How does someone steal your identity? 

There are many ways that criminals in Australia can steal your identity, the range and sophistication of these methods changes quickly, but the key techniques include scams, phishing, and fake emails. 

Scams – This is the umbrella term for the different ways cybercriminals can steal your identity. Scams include phishing emails, social media, SMS messages on your mobile phone, fake tech support phone calls, scareware and more. 

Phishing attacks – This is the most common scam today. Internet thieves prey on unsuspecting users by sending out emails. In these emails, a cybercriminal tries to trick you into believing you are logging into a trusted website that you normally use. Once they have your login details, they can access your accounts and information. 

Fake emails – While the email scam has been around for a while, people continue to fall for it as criminals are getting better at imitating real emails and more targeted. They use all the information available publicly to trick you into exposing your personal information. 

What happens if you suspect an issue? 

If you think your accounts or personal information has been compromised, it's important to take swift action. As cyber criminals will most likely target your financial resources, ensure you contact your bank or lender immediately. 

Once you have contacted the right institutions, you should also ask them to freeze your accounts or cards, as well as look out for any suspicious activity. You may need to find other ways to use your money while you wait for replacement cards or new banking details.

It is also important to report the incident to the relevant government authority, such as the police. Many online scams go unreported and give a distorted picture of how common identity theft really is. 

How can you help protect yourself against identity theft? 

There are different way to protect yourself from scammers, including having strong and different passwords for all your digital accounts, making sure you have all the right and up to date security tools, and are aware of all the ways criminals can target you. 

Strengthening your online security includes: 

  1. Good password hygiene
  2. Watching out for social media scams
  3. Knowing the telltale signs of phishing
  4. Watch out for malware
  5. Regularly checking your bank statement for unusual activity 

Find out more about these tips here.

While scammers are getting smarter and more sophisticated, educating and preparing yourself goes a long way in reducing the harm they can cause. Understanding how these criminals work will help you protect against their attacks. 

 


Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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