Identity theft is the fraudulent practice of using another person's name and personal information to obtain financial gain (for example applying for credit or a loan). The fraudster will steal your identity in such a way you will not be aware it’s been stolen.
Fraudsters can start by stealing a small piece of information from you and then use public sources such as social media to find out additional information including your first and last name, educational background, mother's maiden name, names of pets, date of birth and photos.
This information alone can help the fraudster to set up a bank account under your name and is one of the many reasons why it is vital to have appropriate security settings on your social media accounts.
Your identity may be stolen if:
- Someone opens a phone, Internet or other service account in your name;
- Claims government benefits in your name;
- Lodges fraudulent tax refunds in your name;
- Uses your name to plan or commit illegal activity
- Takes control of your bank accounts including changing the address so you don’t notice there is a problem.
- Safeguard your mail – install a lock on your mailbox;
- Don’t open suspicious emails or texts, delete them;
- Be careful with disclosing personal information on social media;
- Be wary of emails requesting an update of your personal details which direct you to a website or lead you to click on attached links;
- Order a copy of your credit report annually to catch any unauthorised activity or consider asking for an alert to be put on your file so you are notified of requests for finance that have not come from you.
- Don’t respond to cold call requests over the phone requesting personal information.