“Identity is one of our most valuable assets – if it is stolen, the stress and financial costs can last for years,” says Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC. According to the Attorney-General, identity theft is currently at 7% and rising (up from 5 per cent in the previous year)* – and so a new booklet has been formulated to give Australians practical advice on guarding their identity and what to do if they think it’s been stolen. We offer a link to this booklet and encourage all of our readers to download it, and even print it out and give it to someone you know who you think may be at risk. It just may save your bank accounts, your identity and your credit file from misuse.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repair, and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.
The booklet ‘Protecting Your Identity’ was launched by the Attorney-General last week. For anyone who is not so familiar with the workings of identity theft, it is a comprehensive document on the how’s and whys of identity theft. We found this page to be particularly relevant:
Why Should I Be Concerned About Identity Theft?
Once your identity has been stolen it can be almost impossible to recover. You may have problems for years to come. Some of the things that criminals may be able to do with your identity include:
• tricking your bank or financial institution into giving them access to your money and other accounts
• opening new accounts and accumulating large debts in your name which will ruin your credit rating and good name
• taking control of your accounts including by changing the address on your credit card or other accounts so you don’t receive statements and don’t realise there is a problem
• opening a phone, internet or other service account in your name
• claiming government benefits in your name
• lodging fraudulent claims for tax refunds in your name and preventing you from being able to lodge your legitimate return
• using your name to plan or commit criminal activity, and
• pretending to be you to embarrass or misrepresent you, such as through social media.
Identity theft is the curse of the 21st Century and that is becoming more evident in our industry of credit rating repair. There are more and more people needing help with repairing their credit file due to having their identity misrepresented in some way.
Often the first time we are aware of identity theft is when we apply for credit and are flatly refused due to defaults on our credit file that are not ours.
Credit file defaults are difficult for the individual to remove and generally people are told by creditors they remain on our file for 5 years, regardless of how they got there.
Although it seemed so easy for the fraudster to use your good name in the first place, you are now faced with proving the case of identity theft with copious amounts of documentary evidence.
If you have neither the time nor the knowledge of our credit reporting system that you may need to fight your case yourself, you can seek the help of a credit repairer. A credit repairer can help you to clear your credit rating and restore the financial freedom you rightly deserve.
The reason a credit repairer is usually so successful in removing your credit file defaults, is their relationships with creditors, and their knowledge of current legislation.
If you have just found out you are a victim, we recommend you also contact the Police. Don’t be embarrassed – it is only through identity theft being reported that data gets collected and appropriate preventative measures eventually get put in place.
Top Tips for Preventing Identity Theft
In a statement to the media last week, Mr Dreyfus also outlined some simple steps Australians can take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:
Secure your mailbox with a lock and, when you move, redirect your mail.
Be cautious about using social media, and limit the amount of personal information you publish online.
Secure your computer and mobile phone with security software and strong passwords, and avoid using public computers for sensitive activities.
Secure your personal documents at home and when travelling.
Learn how to avoid common scams at www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Be cautious about requests for your personal information over the internet or phone and in person in case it is a scam.
Investigate the arrival of new credit cards you haven’t requested or bills for goods and services you have not purchased.
Be alert for any unusual bank transactions or missing mail.
If you are a victim of identity theft, report it to the police and any relevant organisations.
Order a free copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency on a regular basis, particularly if your identity has been stolen.
* Last year a survey commissioned by the Attorney‑General’s Department found 7 per cent of respondents had been victims of identity crime in the previous six months – up from 5 per cent the previous year.
Image: Victor Habbick/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net