One in four Australians have been the victim of identity crime at some point in their lives. It’s a scary stat, and the threat of identity theft is something we all need to be vigilant about.
You may not think someone would want to steal your identity, but you’d be wrong.
Details such as your name, date of birth, Medicare and passport numbers, all the way through to information like your mother’s maiden name and place of birth are all key pieces of info to keep protected. Combinations of these important details can be used by cybercriminals to build a picture of your identity. This is why it’s s important to keep a tight rein on the information that’s out there.
1. Be careful about what you share online
That picture you shared of the kids in their school uniforms standing outside your house? Or the fact you have your birthday available for everyone to see on Facebook? They may have seemed like a good idea at the time (and, let’s face it, who doesn’t like getting birthday wishes from all the people you rarely speak to?!), but they’re a potential identity theft gateway.
This is because passwords and answers to security questions can often be deduced from the personal information we share.
“Check the security settings on your socials to make sure you are only sharing things with people you’re happy sharing things with,” Jonathan says. “And remember: never accept friend requests from people you don’t know.”
2. Don’t use p@55w0rD
People who are interested in stealing your ID have access to programs that generate and test billions of passwords every second. So make the passwords for all of your online accounts as unique as possible. Long passwords or passphrases (different for each account) is where it’s at.
There are plenty of good password manager apps out there to help you keep track of your login credentials. Popular ones to try include:
3. Check your credit report
Your credit report records every application for finance you’ve made, so keep a close eye on it.
“A change in your credit score, and records of applications you haven’t made, are a surefire indicator that your identity is being used fraudulently,” says Jonathan. “The sooner you can spot it, the quicker you can stop it.”
WATCH: Find out what your credit report includes and how it impacts your credit score:
Access your credit report for free via Equifax, the leading credit-scoring bureau in Australia. What’s on the report will dictate your credit score, which is also accessible for free on GetCreditScore.com.au.
Keep a close eye on it to make sure there aren’t any changes that you can’t reasonably explain. If there are, you’ll need to report to the police or your bank, and change all passwords.
4. Keep your software up to date
Cybercriminals can get into computers, tablets or phones via malware. Malware (or malicious software programs) generate computer viruses and Trojan programs that can steal information contained on your computer. Like your credit card or bank account details, medical records and tax file number.
This is why it’s so important to keep everything up to date, including your security software. Set your security software to update automatically, and use antivirus software too – it’s worth paying extra for.
5. Be aware of scams
From phone calls from your ‘bank’ to emails or SMSs that look genuine enough, scammers are using all manner of tricks to get your personal details.
Never click on a link in an email you’re not expecting – if your bank wants you to access your latest statements, go to their website and look them up. Likewise, never give out your bank details over the phone on an incoming call. Instead, hang up, find the number for the bank, then call them back.
If you do believe your identity has been stolen or any of your accounts have been hacked, immediately report it to your bank, lender and the police. If any online accounts have been compromised, get in touch with the company immediately. By acting quickly, you can save yourself a whole host of problems further down the track.
This article is brought to you in partnership with GetCreditScore.