Learn how to protect your identity
With the recent spate of ATO oriented phishing attacks and the persistent online scams targeting Australian employees and business owners, the team at Naritas thought it a good idea to put together some tips on how to protect your identity.
What is identity crime?
Identity crime refers to the theft of a person’s identity and can include taking and using elements such as a person’s name, date-of-birth, address or other information.
Criminals use this information to conduct fraudulent activities such as opening accounts, applying for credit or taking out loans, conducting business, claiming government and other benefits or many other forms of illegal activity.
What are the risks and impacts?
Criminals use a variety of methods to steal a person’s identity. This can include going through rubbish bins to find bank statements and other documents; stealing wallets and purses; impersonating service providers and asking for personal information directly and using technology and the internet to steal and record personal details.
Once a criminal has your information you can find yourself in a serious financial and legal mess that can impact you financially and emotionally. You may end up with debts that you cannot prove are not yours. Investigating identity theft is a lengthy, complex and expensive process.
Identity theft is Australia’s fastest growing crime. In 2009, 4.4 million Australians were victims of an identity crime and these cost a total of more than $4 billion per year.^
Practical steps to protect your identity
There are many simple and easy steps that you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft:
- When communicating with your accountant, finance broker or bank, check to see if they provide you any facilities that encrypt your information in transit when you need to upload documents for their perusal. At Naritas we encourage our clients to use our secure upload facility instead of email. This is because most email communication is sent as clear text and is easily intercepted by malicious third parties.
- Check your bank accounts each month or check them online and look into any abnormal account activities.
- Consider getting your credit file and using credit alerts to remain aware of any changes to your credit file.
- Never give any personal information to telemarketers, door-to-door salespeople or market researchers.
- Always shield the keypad when you enter your PIN into an Automatic Teller Machine. If you suspect that the ATM may have been compromised, do not use it and try to advise the owner.
- Never provide your personal details to anyone that calls you or contacts you via email. Criminals may pretend to be from your financial institution. If this happens, use caution. If you believe it to be legitimate, ask for the person’s name, department and call the financial institution directly to be sure you are speaking to a genuine employee.
- Don’t share personal information on social networking sites such as facebook. It’s never a good idea to publicise your date of birth and other information that is used in authentication for other services
- Don’t use public computers such as those in libraries or internet cafes for internet banking. If you need to use hotel or public wifi use a VPN service.
- Make sure you use virus protection software on your home computers.
- Make sure you use secure passwords rather than simply your name or anything very easy such as password123. Using a password manager such as LastPass to generate unique random passwords and store these passwords in an encrypted database is one of the best ways to ensure that you do not reuse the same password at multiple sites.
- Cross cut shred documentation before you throw it in the recycling bin to prevent criminals finding your details should they sift through your rubbish.
- Use a lock on your letterbox or a PO Box and make sure that you place mail holds or mail redirects if you are travelling or change address.
- Never allow shop assistants to take your credit or debit cards out of your sight when completing transactions. This can help to prevent ‘skimming’ where thieves take your credit card details to use again later.
Implement voice authentication with your ATO records
The ATO have recently introduced voice authentication to their phone systems. You can now use your voiceprint to verify your identity when you call the ATO. This extra layer of security will help the ATO protect your tax account and reduce the chances of scammers accessing your account and information.
Protect your credit file and online financial information
SecureIdentity by Veda Advantage helps you to protect yourself against identity theft by detecting activity that may indicate if your identity is being compromised.
By providing you with your personal credit file, you’ll be able to check the accuracy of the information in the report and take action if you notice anything that’s inaccurate. They’ll also send you a credit alert whenever specific changes are made to your credit file. This may act as an early warning system that can help to alert you to any suspicious activity.
If you benefitted from reading this article, we encourage you to share with friends and family to keep them safe.
^ Veda Advantage Identity Crimes Report 2009, conducted by Galaxy Research