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Identity crime: What to do about it if it happens to you

Frank Lilley
14th August, 2017

What is identity crime?

Identity crime is where a person uses a fabricated, manipulated or stolen identity to commit a crime. This is a serious problem in Australia and across the world. According to a recent Commonwealth Government report Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2016, identity crime costs us around $2.2 billion a year and facilitates a range of other serious crimes including fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism. The report estimated that a staggering 5% of Australians lost money each year as a result – a victim every 20 seconds. Examples include where a criminal uses someone else’s personal information to obtain credit cards, loans or other benefits.

Given the prevalence of these crimes it is not surprising that we hear of ADF members and families sometimes falling victim. Indicators that you have been targeted may include your mail particularly bills and letters from banks or other financial institutions not showing up, unauthorised transfers or other transactions on any of your accounts, or contact from debt collectors or others about goods and services you did not purchase. If you, a family member or colleague is unlucky enough to become a target here are some practical steps you can take and some organisations you can seek help from in response.

What can I do if it happens to me or someone I know?

Dealing with identity crime is often not simple and may require you to make reports and provide information to multiple organisations and agencies. The most important thing is to act promptly. The quicker you respond the less damage they will be able to do and the sooner you should be able to rectify the situation.

The Protect Your Financial Identity website – a collaboration between the Australian Bankers’ Association, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) recommends the following six steps:

  1. Contact your bank to inform them of any disputed transactions, all the accounts involved and any other concerns you have. Your bank should advise you on actions you need to take, which make include changing passwords and PINs, stopping payments and closing accounts.
  2. Report the matter to police immediately.
  3. Contact the credit reporting agencies – advise them, request that they note it on your file and obtain a copy of your file so that you can check it thoroughly (and do so again a few months later). We recommend following the guidance on the ASIC MoneySmart Credit Report factsheet and also reporting the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) by calling them on 1800 367 287 or visiting their website.
  4. Check with your local post office that your mail has not been diverted without your knowledge.
  5. Keep detailed notes as you go – of all the actions you take, people you speak to and information you and they provide.
  6. Contact any relevant government departments or agencies. For example, if a particular document or piece of information – like your driver’s licence or marriage certificate – was stolen or compromised inform the appropriate authority. Likewise, if you believe that a criminal has tried to fraudulently obtain a benefit in your name through Centrelink, DVA or another agency notify the agency.

If an ADF member is targeted we strongly recommend that the member’s chain of command and unit security officer are notified immediately.

We also recommend that victims:

  • Change all their passwords – including for financial and government services, online services, email and social media; and
  • Seek help from iDcare – iDcare are a free service which assists individual victims to deal with and reduce the impact of identify fraud. They can be contacted toll free on 1300 432 273.

Where can I get further help and information?

You can get help and further useful authoritative information from:

Finally, you can always contact us if you have any questions about what to do or how to help someone else.

Frank Lilley is the Operations Manager of the ADF Financial Services Consumer Centre

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