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What is identity theft?

Identity theft involves the theft of a pre-existing identity. It may occur when a criminal steals or comes into possession of your personal information, such as your name, credit card details, address, date of birth, bank account, debit card details, driver’s license etc and assumes your identity to commit fraud. Criminals commit this crime by applying for credit, running up bills and not paying creditors – all under another person’s name

What does identity fraud cost Australia?

It is difficult to estimate, although it was estimated at $1.1 billion for Australia in 2001-2002. There has been no national research completed since that date.

What is being done about identity theft in Australia?

The banks, Government and Police have been working closely together to address identity theft in Australia.

How can I protect myself from becoming a victim of identity theft?

Click here to see how you can protect yourself
Click here to see how you can protect yourself online
Click here to see how you can protect your business
Click here to see how you can protect your customers

If I am a victim, am I responsible for any fraudulent credit card or bank transactions?

If you have been a victim of identity fraud and your card is still in your possession, you should not have to pay for anything bought on it without your permission (subject to the terms and conditions of your account). If your card has been lost or stolen, you will usually not have to pay, unless it can be shown that you have acted fraudulently or without reasonable care, for example by keeping your PIN number written down with your card.

The same applies to any money lost through fraudulent bank transactions. This is despite the fact that customers in these situations have usually handed their PIN to the criminals, by for example, keying it into a ghost website. To date, Australian banks have made the decision to refund customer losses in these situations. 

How does a criminal get my personal information?

Criminals commit identity theft by stealing your personal information and then pretending to be you. This is often done by taking documents from your rubbish or by making contact with you and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation.

What does a criminal do with my personal information?

Once a criminal has the information he needs he could for example:

  • apply for a credit card in your name;
  • open a bank or building society account in your name;
  • apply for other financial services in your name;
  • run up debts (e.g. use your credit/debit card details to make purchase) or obtain a loan in your name;
  • apply for any benefits in your name (for example, unemployment benefits);
  • apply for a drivers licence in your name;
  • register a vehicle in your name;
  • apply for a passport in your name; or
  • apply for a mobile phone contract in your name.

What do I do if I become a victim of identity theft?

Click here for information on what you should do if you become a victim of identity theft

Is Internet banking safe?

Customer security is a number one priority for banks when choosing to offer banking services – whether that banking is completed online, over the telephone or in a branch. Banks have sophisticated software that can detect fraudulent transactions even before a customer may notice a problem. This software can detect unusual spending patterns and alert bank staff, who then contact the customer to protect their accounts. Just as you lock the door when you leave the house, anyone accessing the Internet should protect their PC. It is advisable to install and keep up-to-date a firewall and anti-virus software. Also be alert to suspect emails which contain attachments as they could contain Trojan and viruses which infect computers.  By taking these positive steps, you can reduce the risks of Internet crime.

How can I convince the company that I work for that their record keeping practices are placing employees and clients in danger of identity theft?

Many companies are reluctant to change existing practices due to the cost and time involved. Your best approach in this situation is to help the company acknowledge that the world has changed, and therefore security measures must be updated accordingly. You should speak to your Manager or Supervisor, Human Resources or Union Representative immediately.

What should I do if I think that my account has been defrauded?

You must immediately notify the bank if your card or PIN record is lost or stolen or you suspect an unauthorised transaction is made on your account. Time is of the essence. If you wallet is stolen – try to remember what is in your wallet, you might have two credit cards and an ATM access card – both have to be cancelled.

Click here to link to the Resolving specific problems fact sheet



This website gives information of a general nature and is not intended to be relied on by readers as advice in any particular matter. We suggest that you consult your financial planner on how this information may apply to your own circumstances.