2 March 2015

You should be careful when placing personal details such as date of birth, address and phone contacts on any of your online profiles. This information may be harvested to steal your identity.

You should always be cautious about who you provide your personal and financial information to and ensure there is a legitimate reason for disclosing these details.

The New South Wales Police and Australian Federal Police are warning people to protect their information. In a joint statement released on 26 February 2015, the police services announced they had, in partnership with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, identified – and shut down – an alleged fraudulent identity manufacturing operation in Sydney. The operation had allegedly created thousands of fake identification cards, including licences, Medicare cards and credit cards.

At Stay Smart Online, we recommend that you treat your personal information the same way you do your money – do not leave it lying around for others to take.  With your stolen identity, a person can access your bank account, obtain credit cards or loans in your name, claim welfare benefits, and potentially ruin your credit rating.

Although most identity theft victims lose relatively small amounts of money, the effects of the crime can extend well beyond the initial financial loss. 

Identity theft can harm the victim’s reputation, emotional and psychological health, and force them to spend time notifying relevant authorities and institutions of the incident. A victim will typically spend between 18 and 200 hours dealing with the consequences ofidentity theft. 

A recent report released by the Attorney‑General’s Department said between 750,000 and 900,000 Australians were affected by identity crime each year. 

Steps to protect your identity online

•            Use strong passwords and do not share them with anyone. A random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation over ten characters long is recommended.

•            Check your billing and account records carefully to detect potential identity theftearly.

•            Set up a separate email address for shopping and newsgroups. If you need to, you can then change this address without disrupting online business activities.

•            Only share your primary email address with people you know.

•            Be careful when signing up to mailing lists – spammers use the unsubscribe button to validate addresses.

•            Only make online purchases from companies that have a clear privacy policy and secure payment pages.

•            Think before you fill out online forms. Ask yourself, how much information do I need to enter into this site?

•            Keep a record of what information you have given to whom.

•            Be careful how much personal information you post or reveal online.

•            Users who share addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, and other personal information put themselves at a greater risk of identity theft, stalking and harassment. This includes information you post on social media.

•            If you use social networking sites, adjust your privacy settings to control the amount and type of information you want to share, so that people you don't know very well can only see certain parts of your profile.

•             Think about what information you may have online that is spread across multiple sites. Identity thieves can piece together your identity from public information piece by piece like putting together a puzzle.

What to do if your identity has been stolen

•            Notify your financial institutions

•            Change your passwords

•            Notify the relevant websites

•            Request a credit report from a reputable credit reference bureau.

More information

How to set automatic updates on your computer.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.

Feedback

Thank you to those subscribers who have provided feedback to our Alerts and Newsletters. We are very interested in your feedback and where possible take on board your suggestions or requests.

Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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