Identity Theft in NSW

Identity Theft in NSW

Identity Theft in NSW

As we become more reliant on technology, identity theft is becoming increasingly common in Australia. Identity fraud can directly impact an individual’s finances and can negatively impact their credit rating.

Find out more about identity theft, what methods criminals use to scam victims, how to protect yourself and what to do if your personal information is accessed.

Let’s take a closer look.

 

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when a cybercriminal accesses personal information without consent to steal money or gain benefits. They may use the identification information to apply for a credit card, drivers licence, or tax file number, or even obtain a fraudulent birth certificate. Criminals will use the identity documents to commence illegal activity such as opening a new bank account, obtaining a bank loan or receiving fraudulent Centrelink payments.

Personal information such as name, address, and date of birth can be obtained from public sources, social media accounts and private documents.

Identity crime is a criminal offence in all states and territories in Australia, and strict penalties apply.

 

What Are The Most Common Methods Of Identity Theft?

There are several ways that a cybercriminal can commit identity theft, and almost all involve technology. The following are some of the most common methods used:

Hacking

Hacking occurs when a criminal accesses another person’s computer, phone or network to obtain personal identification information. Weak security systems allow a hacker to illegally obtain identification information, which may include a government or business account or system.

Phishing

Phishing occurs when a person gets tricked into providing personal identification information to a scammer impersonating a reputable business such as a bank or government department. The criminals can access individuals via scam emails.

Malware

Malware is a virus used by cybercriminals to trick a person into installing software that gives them access to personal files and tracks system usage. Another virus called ransomware, locks a person’s computer until the criminal receives a payment from their victim.

Remote Access 

A criminal may impersonate a reputable IT company and trick a user into installing antivirus software, which gives them access to their computer system and payment for their illegal service.

Fake Profiles

Fake profiles on social media or dating sites allow cybercriminals to secure the trust of individuals and then exploit them for cash or donations.

Data Breach

When the government or a business has a data breach, it allows criminals access to private information and uses it for illegal purposes, such as opening unauthorised accounts. In many cases, a person may not even realise the breach has occurred. 

Document Theft

This method of identity theft is more traditional and does not use technology to trick someone. Document theft is when a criminal steals personal documents from a letter box to obtain private information from utility bills, insurance or medical records and uses the identification information for illegal purposes.

What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft?

Victims of identity theft must act quickly to minimise financial damage and check accounts for suspicious activity, as scammers use the stolen identities to access their bank accounts. 

Report the incident to the police, ask for a reference number and contact other involved agencies, such as the relevant financial institution or government agencies. Obtain a free credit report and request that they do not authorise any new accounts. 

Victims should change all online passwords, log out of all online accounts, close insecure accounts, and obtain expert advice from Australia’s national identity and cyber support service.

A victim of identity theft may wish to obtain a certificate from the court which identifies them and contains relevant information about the incident. 

A court certificate can support a claim to financial institutions and businesses to help negotiate the removal of fraudulent transactions.

How To Protect Against Identity Theft?

It is crucial for people to safeguard their identity and to be vigilant when providing personal identification information. Simple methods can help protect a person’s identity, such as the following:

  • Be aware of unusual phone calls or scam emails
  • Remain cautious when providing personal information
  • Store all personal documents in a safe and secure location
  • Destroy documents containing personal information when they are no longer required
  • Do not throw personal or financial papers away, shred or burn the documents
  • Clear the mailbox regularly and ensure it is locked
  • Regularly review personal finance statements and report any suspicious bank account transactions
  • Be vigilant when using an ATM, cover your PIN and look for any unusual fixtures
  • Ensure anti virus software is up to date

Identity Theft Laws In Australia?

It is a criminal offence to commit identity theft in Australia, and maximum penalties of up to ten years imprisonment may be applicable. The Criminal Code Act 1995 contains legislation relating to identity fraud offences in Australia, and penalties may vary from state to state.

In NSW, identity theft laws fall under three primary fraud offences.

Offences where a person makes, uses, or supplies identification information with the intent to commit an offence, is a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.

If a person possesses identification information, with the intention of committing an offence, they face a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

If a person possesses equipment that can be used to make an identification document and intends to use the item to commit a crime, they risk up to three years imprisonment.

Tips To Stay Secure Online

Technology has become a part of everyday life, it is convenient, fast and generally very efficient. To avoid identity theft, remain vigilant and secure when working online. The following tips may help:

  • Install anti virus software on all personal devices
  • Only use personal devices for internet banking, avoid public access computers for financial transactions
  • Use secure websites and trusted payment systems when making payments online
  • Be aware of scam emails offering suspicious deals
  • Be wary when providing personal information to an unknown source
  • Create long passwords and enable password resets in case of data breaches
  • Limit information provided on social media and via email
  • Delete personal information stored online
  • Enable two-step authentication on accounts when available
  • Regularly install software updates on all devices

Summary

Identity theft is when a cybercriminal accesses personal information without consent to steal money or gain benefits. They may use the identification information to apply for a credit card or tax file number and commence illegal activity with the personal information obtained.

Personal information such as name, address, and date of birth can be accessed from public sources, social media accounts and personal documents.

There are several different ways that a cybercriminal can commit identity fraud including, hacking, remote access, data breaching or phishing. In most cases, they attempt to trick people into providing personal identification information.

Victims of identity theft must act quickly to minimise financial damage and check accounts for suspicious activity. They must report the incident to the police, ask for a reference number, contact other involved agencies, such as the relevant financial institution, and obtain a free credit report.

Identity crime is a criminal offence in all states and territories in Australia, and strict penalties apply.

It is crucial for people to safeguard their identity and to be vigilant when providing personal details. Be aware of unusual phone calls or scam emails and remain cautious about how they provide their information. Regularly review personal credit card statements and report any suspicious bank account transactions. Documents that contain personal identification information must be destroyed when no longer required, 

To avoid being a victim of identity theft, people must remain vigilant and secure when working online. Install anti virus software on all personal devices, change passwords regularly and use trusted websites and payment systems.

FAQs

What Do I Do If My Identity Is Stolen In Australia?

Victims of identity theft must act quickly to minimise financial damage and check bank statements for suspicious activity. They must report the incident to the police, ask for a reference number or a police report, and contact other involved agencies, such as the relevant financial institutions or government agencies. Obtain a free credit report and request that they do not authorise any new accounts. 

A victim of identity fraud may wish to obtain a certificate from the court which identifies them and contains relevant information about the theft. Change their passwords and log out of all accounts online.

What Is The Law For Identity Theft In New South Wales?

It is a criminal offence to commit identity theft in Australia, and maximum penalties of up to ten years imprisonment may be applicable. The Criminal Code Act 1995 contains legislation relating to identity fraud offences in Australia, and penalties may vary from state to state.

In New South Wales, identity theft laws fall under three primary fraud offences.

Offences where a person makes, uses or supplies identification information with the intent to commit an offence, is a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.

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