Almost 800,000 victims of identity theft over past year

More than 772,000 people, or 5 per cent of the adult population of Australia, have been the victims of identity theft over the past 12 months.

And 17 per cent of the adult population told the same survey - by credit bureau Veda - that they have had their personal information stolen at some stage.

The survey of more than 1500 people aged 18 and over shows NSW had the highest proportion of people who have been victims of identity theft at some stage, with 19 per cent of the NSW population saying they had been victims.

West Australia was next highest with 17 per cent, followed by Victoria and South Australia, both with 15 per cent.

On average, the out-of-pocket loss of each identity theft is just over $4000.

Gen Y, those born during the 1980s and early 1990s, are the least concerned about falling victims to identity theft, despite being more likely to experience identity theft than older Australians.  

Fiona Long, head of cybercrime at Veda, says the research confirms the significant and ever-present threat posed by identity crime.

She says those who do not take steps to secure their personal and financial details expose themselves to opportunistic scammers.

"We are all doing more and sharing more online and if we leave ourselves vulnerable, identity thieves can steal information like passwords, personal data and financial details without our knowledge," Long says.

Criminals have many ways to obtain information in order to commit identity theft.

They use bank-related hoax emails, theft of mail and of wallets and bags and search through rubbish bins.

Long says hoax emails are one of the most common ways that identity theft begins.

Opening the email or link can allow "malware" to be left on your computer putting you at risk of having personal information collected sent back to the criminal's server.

Of course, there is the ever-present risk of credit and debit cards being skimmed at ATM and EFTPOS terminals.

Long says we should be vigilant and use simple security techniques to protect ourselves.

"Be careful in your online interactions like shopping online and using social media sites, as these can make a big difference to how vulnerable you are to identity crime," she says.

"Combine this with common sense at home: lock your mailbox, keep personal documents hidden and shred information before it goes in the bin," Long says.

Veda has launched a service called Identity Watch for those who are active online.

For $3.99 a month Veda monitors whether the person's information such as email addresses, credit cards and bank details are being traded in online forums. The person is alerted by Veda if their information is compromised.

Top 4 ways to better protect yourself

  • Think before you click and always use secure web sites when transferring money
  • Make passwords hard to guess and change your passwords regularly
  • Don't overshare on social media such as giving your birth date or saying when you will be on holidays
  • Safeguard information. Be careful with giving out your credit card and debit card details, driver's licence and passport numbers and email addresses.

 

This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 April 2015.

This article represents the views of the author only and do not reflect the views of AMP.

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