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How it's done

Identity theft and identity fraud refer to crimes where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. If you’re a victim, someone else has the ability to misuse your identity and access your money.

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

Identity theft can range from a criminal using your credit card details illegally to make purchases over the internet or telephone, through to having your entire identity assumed and used to open bank accounts, take out loans, lodge tax returns and conduct other business illegally in your name. When someone assumes your identity it is known as ‘Identity takeover’.

Identity takeover is relatively rare in Australia, but using aspects of your identity to commit fraud can and does happen.

It can also happen quickly. You might have your credit card details skimmed when you make a purchase, lose your wallet or other personal effects, or have them stolen. House break-ins and mail theft are also way in which fraudsters can get information about you. Perhaps most unexpected of all, you could have your identity stolen and used by someone you know and trust - a friend, relative or work colleague.

An example of how identity thieves work in Australia

One Melbourne offender obtained the birth certificates of four babies who had died in the 1970s and then, over eight months, claimed $20,857 in unemployment benefits in their names.

When arrested, the offender had with him a bag full of false Proof of Identity documents to support his welfare claims. These included motor vehicle learner's permits, mobile phone accounts, student cards, rental documents and bank account access cards.
Source: Protyniak 2000 cited in Ringin 2001, p.6

Everyday, you engage in transactions that require the sharing of personal information. You may share personal details when you pay bills, make purchases, hire a car, rent accommodation, open bank accounts or log on to a computer.

To complete these transactions, you often provide information such as your name, address, phone number, driver's licence number, or sometimes even bank account or credit card numbers. Elements of your personal information exist in almost every business or organisation that you’ve dealt with.

Identity theft occurs when somebody steals your name or other personal information for fraudulent purposes. Identity theft is a form of identity crime (where somebody uses a false identity to commit a crime). The following case study describes an example of identity theft involving credit card skimming.

     

IMPORTANT NOTE

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.