The crime of identity theft is growing at an alarming rate. A major driver of this has been the world’s ever-growing reliance on the
internet. With the average person’s digital footprint as conspicuous as ever, scammers’ ability to prey upon victims is arguably
as easy as it's ever been.
Identity fraud comes in several forms, the most common being:
- identity theft;
- bank card (EFTPOS) fraud; and
- credit card fraud.
What is identity fraud?
This involves using another’s personal information—without their knowledge or consent—to commit fraud or other crimes. Opening a bank
account, obtaining a credit card, and applying for a passport are all common activities a fraudster will undertake once they know enough
about a given person’s identity. Victims will typically suffer emotional turmoil along with significant financial and/or reputational
How does it happen?
A fraudster will often assume another’s identity by:
- accessing publicly available personal information via the internet;
- obtaining personal details (e.g., tax file numbers, bank account numbers, pay slips, loan information); and/or
- accessing physical documents (e.g., utility bills, expired passports, driver’s licences).
The impact of the internet
In the high-tech society we live in today, identity fraud can be—and often is—achieved exclusively via the internet. In light of this, make
sure you understand the following malicious techniques that identity fraudsters often make use of:
Phishing: This involves legitimate companies being impersonated over email so that you are encouraged to disclose your
personal details. One common variant is that an email is sent requesting that you click on a link to “update” your password
and/or credit card information. While these scams usually appear highly convincing, know that financial institutions are not
permitted to email you
when it comes to matters such as requesting that you change or disclose your personal information.
Trojans/spyware: These are malicious programs that become embedded in your computer—typically by you having downloaded it
thinking it was a software program or browser extension—without your knowledge or consent. They transmit your personal and financial
details, as well as your full keystroke history, to criminal syndicates who later use this information to access your identity and commit
fraud or other crimes.
Fake charity websites: These often occur following a natural disaster and seek to prey on charitable people by
impersonating legitimate non-profit organisations. In more sophisticated instances, the actual logo and imagery of the target charity are
copied by the creators of the fake website, making it virtually identical to the real website. Indeed, it pays to be careful when being
How can I protect myself?
The most important thing to know when it comes to online security is that it should be thought of as an ongoing process that has no end.
Habits and patterns of behaviour are what’s key here. Below are some recommendations you can implement to help you protect yourself
against identity fraud.
- Ensure your computer has protective software installed which updates daily.
- Don’t share personal information with people or organisations you aren’t familiar with.
- Keep your personal documents safe and secure.
Never share personal details (e.g., birth date, home address) on social media platforms—this information is typically all that’s
needed to verify your identity over the phone.
Just as you wouldn’t leave your wallet containing all of your money, cards, and driver’s licence unattended in public, you
shouldn’t have too many personal details in your publicly visible ‘online wallet’. Be diligent in protecting your digital
footprint—you won’t regret it!