If you haven’t stopped and thought about how you keep your private information secure, chances are you could be leaving it wide open for scammers to steal.
Hacking, phishing and identity theft scams accounted for more than a quarter of the 91,000 scams contacts reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in 2014.
When scammers get your details, they can use them for all sorts of identity crime such as making unauthorised purchases on your credit card, or using your identity to open accounts such as banking, telephone or energy services, take out loans or carry out other illegal business under your name.
Having your identity stolen can be both financially and emotionally devastating. It can take months to reclaim your identity, and the impact of having it stolen can last for years. The good news is there are ways to minimise the risk of identity theft.
Keep your personal details secure: Your postal mail and your online presence are the first place a scammer will look to piece together your details. Lock your mailbox, and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing out. Be careful sharing information about yourself online, including social media, blogs and other online forums.
Think twice about what you say and do in an online environment: While there are times when your personal details are required for legitimate reasons, such as signing up to a new service or buying something, always check that the person or organisation is who they say they are. Stop and think before filling in surveys, entering competitions, clicking on links or attachments, or even ‘befriending’, ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ something.
Keep your mobile devices and computers secure: These are a treasure trove of personal information for scammers. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a scammer – always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
Choose your passwords carefully: Passwords are often the only barrier between scammers and your valuable information. Set and use strong passwords which are difficult to guess, and change them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
Beware of any request for your details or money: Scammers will try to trick you into handing over your data by using the names of well-known companies or government departments. If you think it’s a scam, DON’T RESPOND. Use the phone book or an online search to check the organisation’s contact details. NEVER use the contact details provided in the original request.
Get a copy of your credit report: Your credit report contains information on your credit history. You can get a free copy of your report every year to check that no-one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts. As detailed in the ASIC Chairman’s article above find out how to get your free credit report on ASIC’s MoneySmart website. https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/borrowing-and-credit/borrowing-basics/credit-reports#Get
If you think your banking details have been compromised, you should contact your bank or credit union immediately. If you think your personal information has been stolen, contact iDcare – www.idcare.org or call 1300 IDCARE (432273) – a free government industry service which works with you to develop specific response plans to your situation to reduce risk and impact.
Get smarter with your data video
Delia Rickard Deputy Chair Australian Competition and Consumer Commision