In 2022, roughly 0.8% or 159,600 Australians have experienced identity theft according to Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest release of personal fraud survey. In the same year, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) also received over 76,000 cybercrime reports; which was a whopping 13% increase from the previous year. The average out-of-pocket loss per victim was $4,000 as stated on the same report from ACSC. These statistics just goes to show how important it is to be well-informed regarding online safety, and how every Australian should be made aware of the necessary measures they should practice to ensure the protection of their private data and personal information.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a type of cybercrime in which a person’s personal information is used without their permission to commit fraud or other crimes. This information can include their name, address, Social Security number, credit card number, or other sensitive data.
Identity thieves can use this information to open new accounts in your name, apply for loans, or even file taxes. This can lead to significant financial losses and damage to your credit score.
The most common type of identity theft in 2022 was credit card fraud, followed by loan fraud, and employment fraud (statistic from the ABS Personal Fraud Survey, 2021-22). And the most common way that identity thieves obtained personal information was through phishing emails and online scams (ACSC 2022 Cyber Threat Report).
To be able to protect oneself from these online crimes, it’s important to be made aware of the different tactics used.
- Financial identity theft: This is when a thief uses your personal information to open new accounts in your name, apply for loans, or make unauthorized purchases.
- Employment identity theft: This is when a thief uses your personal information to apply for a job in your name, or to claim benefits or tax refunds.
- Medical identity theft: This is when a thief uses your personal information to obtain medical care in your name, or to file fraudulent insurance claims.
- Government identity theft: This is when a thief uses your personal information to apply for government benefits or services, or to vote in your name.
- Social media identity theft: This is when a thief uses your personal information to create fake social media accounts in your name, or to post embarrassing or defamatory content.
Common Practices of Identity Thieves
- Phishing scams: These are emails or websites that look legitimate but are actually designed to steal your personal information.
- Data breaches: These are incidents in which sensitive data is stolen from companies or organizations.
- Skimming devices: These are small devices that are attached to ATMs or other payment terminals to steal credit card information.
- Dumpster diving: This is the act of searching through trash cans for personal information.
- Social engineering: This is a technique used by criminals to trick people into revealing their personal information.
The Rise of Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft has been the most common cybercrime reported in the past year. And this may be because of the rising popularity of online application processes for bank accounts, credit cards, and online loans.
Online loans has been a great target for identity thieves because it is often easier to obtain than traditional loans, and this can also be processed quickly if the online thieves already have your personal information on-hand. There are several measures you can do to protect yourself from identity theft:
- Only apply for loans from reputable lenders; if you are planning to acquire online loans, make sure that you are applying from a legitimate website.
- Be careful about what personal information you share online.
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
- Monitor your credit report and bank statements regularly.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Never give out your personal information over the phone or online unless you are sure that the person you are speaking to is legitimate.
- Be suspicious of any email or website that asks for your personal information. If you are not sure if an email or website is legitimate, do not click on any links or enter any personal information.
- Keep your software up to date. Software updates often include security patches that can help protect your computer from malware and other threats.
- Shred any documents that contain your personal information before you throw them away.
With any online transactions you may be doing, you should always remain vigilant and carry out simple security checks to protect yourself from identity theft.