There is no doubt that identity fraud and theft is on the increase with over four million Australians affected each year. If you want to repair your credit rating, but can’t figure out why your credit score is so low, it is a good idea to check you have not been a victim of identity fraud.
Interestingly, despite increasing levels of identity fraud, many Australians have failed to take even simple measures to protect their identity.
From a credit rating perspective the result of identity theft is usually disastrous as it often leads to credit defaults for the innocent party. Once a default is listed, it’s up the victim to prove their innocence. This can take significant time and resources, and all the while the victim may be unable to secure credit themselves.
This trend is concerning as recent reports shows that more than a quarter of the Australian population has been affected by identity fraud, either personally, or within their friend and family networks. The cost of identity theft to Australians is reported to be 3.5 billion each year and growing.
Identity theft occurs for a number of reasons including the fraudulent securing of credit, money laundering, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and even terrorism. Yet despite the very serious nature of this crime the majority of Australians haven’t taken any steps to protect themselves.
Other research findings include:
Of all the Australians who were personally affected by identity fraud, 51% of these victims had not done anything to protect themselves from future identity theft
- Over 80% of the “digital generation” (16-24 years old) have not taken any measures to protect their identity
- 82% of Australians were not aware of services available in Australia to alert and help protect them from identity theft
- 75% of Australians who have been victims of identity theft had a household income of more than $40,000.00
- 65% of Australians who were personally affected by identity fraud were between the ages of 25 and 49
How can you protect yourself from identity theft?
Protecting your identity can be as simple as placing an alert system on your credit file, or calling a hotline which will cancel your credit cards for you. The general public would be well advised to become familiar with these steps and how to initiate them.
Veda Advantage (now Equifax), Australia’s largest credit reporting agency has a number of protection measures in place for the general public to help safe guard against identity theft.
Veda Advantage’s unique My Veda Alert service notifies a consumer every time a credit provider accesses their credit file. Consumers receive an electronic report advising them of who has obtained a copy of their credit report, any changes to address information, or if new applications for credit have been made under their name.
This allows consumers to monitor any irregular activity, which may indicate an identity has been stolen and is being used to fraudulently obtain credit. It will help consumers to take a proactive stance against identity fraud to prevent financial loss and adverse changes to their credit profile.
Secure Sentinel, a Veda Advantage company, also helps protect, retrieve and replace registered cards if they are lost or stolen. Secure Sentinel provides loss assistance, credit card cancellation and retrieval services in one package, with a dedicated 24-hour hotline that consumers can call from anywhere in the world to cancel credit cards. Its focus is on preventing identity theft rather than a recovery process.
Australians should pay close attention to their online behaviour to avoid any potential exposure to identity fraud. Global incidences of identity theft and online fraud more than doubled last year, which demonstrates the importance of protecting your identity both on and offline. In more difficult economic times, criminals look for more inventive ways of obtaining information to assume someone’s identity, and the borderless characteristics of the internet are fast becoming a hot spot for a wave of new attacks.
Recent studies indicate 63% of Australians said they believed their personal risk to identity theft and related crimes would increase as a result of the GFC. When you consider the shifts in business and economic transactions that are moving to new digital and online formats, protection of personal and financial details has never been more important.
Top tips for protecting your identity
Remember to notify institutions when you move house, shred important documents from your mail and put in place a secure mail box. If you are going away, have mail held at the post office.
Check your bank accounts each month or check them online and look into any abnormal account activities.
Online: hide passwords and information such as birth dates and phone numbers when using an open online environment. Elect the ‘private’ option on social networking sites.
Track changes to your credit file. A low-cost solution is to set up an e-Alert service which notifies you of any changes on your credit file that may imply someone is applying for credit in your name.
Shred any paperwork with personal information or account details, including bank and credit card statements, phone and gas/electricity.
Use secure transactions on your computer. If using a shared computer, regularly update security software and don’t open any attachments from an unreliable source.
Inform your credit providers immediately if you find any suspicious activity in your financial accounts.
Veda Advantage recommends checking your credit file 30 days prior to applying for a loan to make sure all accounts are in order www.mycreditfile.com.au.
(Source Equifax formerly Veda Advantage)