How to protect your personal information

Identity theft on the rise in Australia.

Australians are losing more money to identity theft than ever, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

The AIC revealed Australians lost more than $3.1 billion to identity crime in 2018-19, a 17% increase from 2015-16.

About one in four Australians surveyed by AIC has had their personal information stolen, with an average loss of $300 per incident.

Personal information of value to scammers includes your name, credit card details, Medicare card details, bank account information, address, and date of birth.

RACQ Manager Banker to Member Initiatives Eszter Cathcart said verifying communication was the first step to avoiding identity theft.

“You should always verify communication with anyone who asks you for personal information,” Ms Cathcart said.  

“This could mean going to a website yourself instead of clicking on a link in an email or hanging up on a phone call and calling the business back directly.

“Taking the time to check that each request is genuine could save you time and money in the long run.”

How do you know if your identity has been stolen?

Common warning signs of identity theft include:

  • You don’t receive mail you have been expecting, such as utility bills or bank statements.
  • You receive bills or receipts for items you haven’t purchased.
  • Your bank statements show purchases you haven’t made.
  • You’re contacted by debt collectors for debts you haven’t incurred.

What to do if you think your personal information has been stolen

“Contact your bank and local police immediately,” Ms Cathcart said.

“The sooner your bank knows about the issue, the sooner they can stop any further fraud from occurring.

“Changing your passwords and reporting any compromised online accounts will also help.

“You can also contact IDcare, a charity that can provide personalised support to help you decide on your next steps.”

Protect your personal information

  • Put a lock on your mailbox to prevent your mail from being stolen.
  • Set your social media settings to “private”.
  • If you suspect a call is not genuine, hang up and call the company back directly.
  • Type a website’s official URL into your internet browser instead of clicking on a link.
  • Use strong, unique passwords.
  • Don’t accept social media “friend” requests from strangers.
  • Check your bank statements regularly for unusual transactions.
  • Avoid signing up to mailing lists. 

Find out more about scams

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommends protecting yourself from scams through awareness and education.  The ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams is recognised internationally as an important tool for consumers and small businesses to learn about scams and is available in several languages.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.