Identity theft is on the rise. People are increasingly putting more of their private information on public platforms, making it easier for online thieves to make a living at your expense.
Identity theft is a billion-dollar industry. In fact, a survey conducted by leading Australian credit bureau, Veda, shows one in every five Australians have had their personal information stolen at some point.
Identity thieves can use this personal information to make purchases on your credit card, withdraw money from your bank account, or take out a loan in your name.
The really bad news? Reports show that the number of ‘identity takeovers’ recently leapt by 80%, and 2.5 million Australians are being affected annually by identity theft.
Don’t be complacent – it could happen to you
Identity thieves are after anything that contains your personal information. And not just through tech-savvy hacking. One of the most common gateways to identity theft is mail theft.
In one recent case, a Sydney woman’s first inkling that something was wrong came when her mobile phone lost signal. When she called her provider she was told a new SIM had been issued in her name.
The reason the thief wanted her SIM? Because mobile numbers are linked to people’s various accounts, including banks, which they use to authorize payments.
Most of the other identity checks include questions on name, address, service number, and date of birth, all of which are usually readily available on a bill that can be taken from your letter box.
In the end, more than $18,000 was stolen from her bank account before it was shut down.
Ways to Avoid Identity Theft
Here are six simple ways you can prevent identity theft:
1. Fight phishing. Don’t take the bait. Scam artists ‘phish’ for victims by reaching out and pretending to be banks or government agencies. As such, never give out your personal information if did not initiate contact.
2. Be Mysterious. Everything on social media – from your home address, to children’s names and birthdates – is information tech-savvy identity thieves can use for scams. Don’t over-share.
3. Passwords matter. As hard as it is to remember a complicated password, dealing with identity theft is even more difficult. A mix of letters, numbers, and symbols makes it harder for identity thieves to gain access to your accounts.
4. Shop with caution. Check out a website before entering your credit card and personal information. Only enter personal information on secure website pages that have ‘https’ in the address bar.
5. Pay attention to your statements. Open credit card bills and bank statements right away. If bills stop arriving in the mail, call your bank – someone may have changed your contact information to cover their tracks. If you’ve opted for paperless statements, log into your account regularly.
6. Monitor your credit profile. Order your credit report to find out if any new accounts have been opened in your name.
Finally, stay proactive
It’s an ever-changing landscape when it comes to preventing identity theft.
If you have any questions about how to be more proactive in protecting your identity, bring it up the next time you come in and we can explore some further safety measures together.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without the prior written consent of Finance Matters, which is where this article also appeared.
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