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JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
‘Tis the Season of Christmas Scams
New campaign to protect against identity theft

Sydney, 7 December, 2006: Banks, police and a regulator have come together to fight identity theft and help Australians protect their financial identities with the launch of a new website.

The Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA), the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have today launched the website which assists people protect their financial identity in everyday life and minimise the damage if a problem occurs.

Identity theft is where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. It may occur when a criminal steals or comes into possession of your personal information such as your name, credit/debit card details, address, date of birth, bank account, drivers’ licence etc and assumes your identity to commit fraud.

The new website was today launched in the lead-up to Christmas following warnings that criminals use the holiday season to scam and swindle unsuspecting consumers. It’s also a time when consumers may try to avoid the shopping crowds and purchase online for the first time.

The Protect Your Financial Identity website ‘www.protectfinancialid.org.au’ provides some simple security steps which consumers may wish to follow at this time of the year when online shopping peaks and criminals actively target people. For example, scams such as coaxing people into giving up their personal information on the phone or online; or 'mule recruitment'  - an attempt to get a person to receive stolen funds using his or her bank account and then transferring those funds to criminals usually through bogus job offers.

The new website features an interactive quiz to test your personal security, useful fact sheets such as ‘Protect Yourself Online’, ‘What to do if your Wallet or Handbag is Stolen’ and ‘Protecting Your Business Information’, how to report the crime and how to recover from identity theft.

David Bell, Chief Executive of the ABA, said: “Australia’s banks work diligently to protect their customers from fraud and they also work with police – State and Federal – to prosecute criminals who misuse anyone’s personal financial information to commit crimes.”

“Banks have in place rigorous security mechanisms to ensure your information and accounts are protected. Banks use sophisticated software programs that can detect fraudulent transactions, even before a customer may notice. This software can identify unusual spending patterns and alerts bank employees who then take action to protect the customers’ account.”

“We are reminding consumers to take some simple precautions such as never revealing your PIN or Internet banking logon to anyone – a bank will never ask you for this information; making sure shopping online is undertaken with trusted companies with secure websites; and locking letterboxes. We hope some of these simple steps will tighten up personal security and leave consumers less vulnerable to criminals.”

Chair of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre Board of Management, South Australian Police Commissioner Mal Hyde said the holiday period would see many consumers utilising the Internet for shopping purposes for the first time.

“Some fortunate people may receive a computer or laptop as a Christmas present and start accessing the Internet. Police suggest that if you are buying a computer look for a package which includes anti-virus and firewall software. This will provide protection for the home computer – filtering spam, blocking viruses and blocking intruders and identity thieves,” Commissioner Hyde said.

“Computer owners and Internet users should use all tools available to them, such as this website, to protect themselves against possible online criminal activity.”

Director of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre Kevin Zuccato said the message to consumers was clear. “You have to be just as streetwise on the Internet as you would when approached by someone on the street. You wouldn’t give someone your online banking password if they asked for it in the real world – the same goes for the online world. By taking some simple precautions, we can all make it harder for the thieves,” Federal Agent Zuccato said.

ASIC's Deputy Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Delia Rickard said that raising public awareness about the issue was fundamental to beating the fraudsters, especially as scams were constantly evolving and may even be operated from overseas or linked to organised crime.

“Consumers are often their own best defence against ID theft scams,' said Ms Rickard.  'By taking a few simple precautions, such as checking your credit file for fraudulent loan applications made in your name by someone else, keeping your computer secure and not doing your Internet banking from public terminals, you can minimise your chances of falling victim to ID theft and losing money.  This new website helps you know what to do.”

“And for phoney bank emails asking for your PIN or password, known as phishing, it's simple – don't take the bait, just hit the delete key,' said Ms Rickard.  'If you think your identity has been stolen, contact your bank or financial institution straight away, and report the matter to the police.”

For further information:

Australian Bankers’ Association
Heather Wellard
Phone: 02 8298 0411
Mobile: 0409 830 439

Australian High Tech Crime Centre
AFP National Media: 02 6275 7100

Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Danielle Huck
Mobile: 0417 540 769

ENDS

     

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.