15 Oct 2009

Identity fraud: How exposed are you?

Were you aware that up to 75% of Australian households throw out enough personal information to put them at risk of identity fraud? Personal information such as date of birth, address and mother’s maiden name can unlock enough doors for a bank account to be opened or credit card applications to be accepted in your name.

You share your personal details far more often than you may think – when you pay bills, taxes, rent/accommodation, make purchases, open bank accounts, order a new cheque book or credit card, register your car, take out insurance, rent a video – or log on to a computer.

To complete many of these tasks you often provide details like your name, address, phone number, driver’s licence and sometimes even bank or credit card details. What can we do to make ourselves lessvulnerable to fraud?

Some fraud scams are very complex and sophisticated while others are as basic as someone rifling through your bin!

Here are some suggestions on how to limit your potential exposure:

  • Check your credit report regularly by logging on to www.privacy.gov.au/faqs/ypr/q17.html. Most of us know we have a credit rating, yet have never checked the report ourselves. Your credit report shows ALL credit applications made in your name. If something appears that you are unaware of, advise the agency immediately
  • Password protect all your accounts. Avoid using obvious passwords and change them regularly. Don’t use the same password on more than one account. You might be ok about giving a friend your video card and password, however you probably wouldn’t give them your debit card and PIN would you? This is why you need to have different PIN’s.
  • Keep your important personal information secure. If you have a filing cabinet at home – lock it.

Did you know that collecting personal information is now the motive for most household break-ins, not for stealing the TV and DVD player?

  • Don’t keep registration papers or licence details in your glove box.
  • Don’t carry important papers like your passport or birth certificate around unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t let your credit card out of your sight (for example at retail outlets or restaurants). Your card may be ‘skimmed’ while out of your sight.
  • Think twice about your rubbish. Old bills, expired cards or any identifyinginformation should be destroyed before beingthrown away. A home shredder is a must these days. Shred your envelopes as well!
  • Don’t give personal information over the internet or phone. Only provide the bare minimum required to complete your transaction
  • Secure your mail. Make sure your letter box is large enough to contain the size mail you generally receive and keep it locked. If your mail drops off, check with the Post Office. A mail redirection notice may have been lodged in your name. A Post Office box could provide you with more security.
  • Check your account transactions carefully and follow up if your bills or statements don’t arrive when expected.
  • Reformat the hard drive when you sell or give away your computer. Just deleting is not enough – use a program that wipes the hard drive completely.
  • Only conduct online transactions with secure websites and reputable businesses. Financial institutions will not email their clients asking them to reset their account and password details through a website.
  • Don’t use public computers to access sensitive information.

If you believe that you may be a victim of identity fraud, report it to the police immediately.

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