Identity criminals harvesting data on our children
10 November 2011
Police are concerned identity criminals may turn to targeting the Facebook accounts of children, storing their readily available personal information until they come of age.
They confirm ‘warehousing data’ is a new trend amongst identity criminals, and warn personal information could be stored and used to set up fake identity documents when the child turns 18, which would allow fraudsters to take out credit in their name.
A national credit repairer cautions this could leave the newly credit active young person blacklisted from credit well into their 20’s.
“The amount of personal information that many young people have freely available for viewing on Facebook is frightening. These young people don’t grasp that the information they are posting now, can come back to haunt them later – if that information is stored and misused, their lives can be turned upside down – for 5 years they are locked out of credit, refused cards, loans, even mobile phones,” Director of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs, Graham Doessel says.
The Australian Federal Police’s national co-ordinator of identity security strike team, Ben McQuillan spoke about the dangers of identity crime on Tuesday at a forum in Sydney on money laundering and terrorism.
He warned listeners about the new trend of ‘warehousing’ which involves storing data for a time, making it harder for a victim or bank to trace where and when the data was stolen.
”If people know your full name, your date of birth, where you went to school and other lifestyle issues, and they were to warehouse that data, there is a prospect that could then be used to take out loans or credit cards or to create a bank account that could then be used to launder money,” Mr McQuillan told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr Doessel says identity theft is not only about the initial loss of monies, but if the fraud amounts to credit accounts in the victim’s name going undetected and unpaid past 60 days, a person’s credit file can be ruined for 5 years due to defaults.
“It need not be major fraud to be a massive blow to the identity theft victim. Unpaid accounts for as little as $100 can have the same negative impact on someone’s ability to obtain credit as a missed mortgage payment. So any misuse of someone’s credit file can be extremely significant,” he says.
Proving the case of identity theft when attempting to recover a clear credit rating can be difficult for the individual to undertake, as Mr Doessel says the onus is on the victim to prove to creditors they didn’t initiate the credit.
“The fact that the perpetrator is long gone and the actual act of identity theft happened years earlier will only add to that difficulty,” he says.
Identity theft and subsequent fraud has become rampant worldwide. A survey commissioned by the Attorney-General’s office in July showed 1 in 6 Australians had been or knew someone who had been the victim of identity theft or misuse.
The survey also revealed that the majority of identity theft or misuse occurred over the Internet (58 per cent).
A U.S. study released earlier this year, revealed some alarming statistics about Facebook. Of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million—or more than one-third—were younger than 13 and not supposed to be able to use the site.
It also revealed that one million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyber-bullying on Facebook in the past year.
“Clearly, using Facebook presents children and their friends and families with safety, security, and privacy risks,” the report said.
Mr Doessel recommends parents take an active role in their child’s computer use. He recommends parents and children engage in what information is being provided quite publicly on social networking sites:
1. Keep Privacy settings high, browse in a secure web browser, which should begin with https: and set profile to ‘Friends only’.
2. Don’t post personally identifiable information such as full name, date of birth, phone number, and address.
3. Do not add friends you don’t know. They could be gathering information about you or spreading viruses.
4. Be careful about clicking on links – even if they come from friends. Many posts contain viruses which can spread through your whole friends list, or links to sites which require you to enter personal information.
5. Parents and children should sign up to the government’s StaySmartOnline’s alert system www.staysmartonline.gov.au , which provides many tips for safe social networking.
If people are concerned their information may already have been compromised, they should contact authorities. For those who are credit active, they should check their credit file immediately, which could bring up any inconsistencies.
A credit report is free once a year, and can be obtained from one or more of Australia’s credit reporting agencies.
Any change in contact details, or strange new credit enquiries which show up on the report could mean that the person’s credit file is being misused.
“If there are defaults on the victim’s credit file, they can instil the help of a credit repairer who can work within the legislation to negotiate with creditors and restore the clear credit rating,” Mr Doessel says.
Lisa Brewster – Media Relations firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.mycra.com.au/ 246 Stafford Road, STAFFORD QLD. Ph: 07 3124 7133
MyCRA Credit Repairs is Australia’s leader in credit rating repairs. We permanently remove defaults from credit files.