8 tips to protect your identity
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
We are constantly hearing reports about the rise of personal fraud in Australia. But have you ever seen the numbers relating to this?
The federal government’s website dedicated to monitoring and reporting scams is Scamwatch. It tells us that there were 167,798 reports of Australians being scammed out of more than 140 million dollars in 2019.
One of the more sobering figures is that 11,372 of these were victims of identity theft. These people had their personal and financial details stolen which were then used to borrow money or incur debts in their names. That's someone pretending to be you and making your life a real mess.
Identity theft not only causes financial loss but can severely affect your credit rating into the future. Securing your identity is usually a matter of common sense and I would have said that many of us are more aware of the dangers of fraud and identity theft now more than ever before. But it seems that's just not the reality.
The threat of clickable links in emails or trojan email attachments are commonplace - we seem to be fairly aware of this tactic at least these days - but there are some other practical tips to help keep your money and identity safer;
Take out all the cards in your wallet or purse and copy them all – back and front. Keep the copy in a separate safe place together with the phone numbers of your banks and credit card issuers. Now you are prepared to report a loss to the relevant providers more quickly.
Put a lock on your mailbox to prevent personal mail being stolen - or at a minimum empty your mailbox promptly. These identity thieves thrive on small amounts of personal information which can be used to incrementally build your personal profile for their use.
Immediately report missing money or unusual account activity to your financial institution – even if it’s a small amount. Fraudsters locate bank accounts by depositing or withdrawing small amounts from random account numbers to determine if the account is current. Once confirmed they swoop in for large amounts.
Ensure your bank and credit providers have your current contact information. Computer systems are more sophisticated allowing banks to detect unusual buying patterns. If they can contact you promptly, they will be able to put a stop on a card if suspicious activity occurs.
If you buy online, use a dedicated debit or prepaid credit card and deposit enough to cover your purchase. This will put a cap on how much can be stolen.
If you are asked for your driver’s licence as ID, show it - but - don’t let anyone without authority record the details. Your licence is a de-facto national ID card and is a valuable form of your personal ID in the scammer's arsenal.
If you are phoned by someone purporting to be from a government department or financial institution asking for personal details or to pay a bill that you’re not aware of, ask for their details – name and phone number – and tell them you will call back. If they won’t give you these details, hang up.
Keep up to date. Subscribe to the Scamwatch newsletters and even to trusted credit reporting agencies to keep across relevant information relating to protecting your personal and financial information.
Our online lives have provided thieves with new avenues to separate you from your cash and credit. In the past 6 months, in particular, many new work-from-home arrangements have commenced due to physical distancing and other restrictions and identity fraud have increased on the back of this. Keep informed and consider the practical steps above. Common sense and vigilance are the order of the day - not fear.
Shaun O'Keefe is a fee-based financial planner serving the families of the Peregian community to help set themselves up to build and successfully transfer their wealth between the generations. While some advisers focus specifically on investments or retirement planning, he's chosen to focus 'Financial planning for the whole family’. Subscribe
The information contained in this article is general in nature only. It is not intended to be a recommendation, offer, advice or invitation to purchase, sell or otherwise deal in securities or other investments. Before making any decision concerning a financial product, you should seek advice from an appropriately qualified professional. We believe that the information contained in this document is accurate. However, we are not specifically licensed to provide tax or legal advice and any information that may relate to you should be confirmed with your tax or legal adviser.