1 in 5 are Victims
There's a scary headline. Victims of what? Backache? Homicide? Erectile dysfunction?
Quite possibly, but I'm talking about data theft.
Last month, A Current Affair covered a crackdown on identity fraud. 1 in 5 Australians have their personal data stolen. According to police, "more Australians are more likely to be victimised by identity theft than by any other crime type."
They might use your credit card. You'll have the hassle of recovering money from your bank, if they cover you at all.
The AFP warn that thieves could take out loans and phones in your name. The bills might be sent elsewhere. How long until you'd notice? Thieves could even get a driver's licence or passport in your name and then could run up a criminal record.
When I asked at work, everyone had suffered low-level fraud. We'd all had weird transactions on our cards that we hadn't made. We all got refunded for it but it was a headache. It took calls with the bank, wasted time waiting on hold and then extra security to make sure it didn't happen again. One of us had to cancel a credit card, take out a new one and change over all the automatic payments.
Credit card fraud is upsetting, but ID theft can takes years to sort out. One of my friends actually changed her last name to avoid debt collection calls, because explaining the ID theft got too hard.
Where do thieves get their data? It's often a jigsaw. They assemble small pieces to get the full image. They might get a name and address from stolen mail or paperwork left in a bin. FaceBook could give them a birth date. Once they have these, a few phone calls to businesses might give them the rest.
Who do they target? It's not who you'd think.
Older people fear fraud, but those aged 25 to 44 are more likely to fall victim. Apartment buildings seem more vulnerable to mail and bin theft. And while we all know about phone and internet scams run from foreign countries, Australian exes, contacts and colleagues are frequent culprits.
Victim Support Group ID Care offer great advice to avoid being an easy target. Keep personal documents safe, or get them shredded. Put a lock on your mail box. Be careful sharing personal information online.
We'll always have crime, but you don't have to fall victim. Be smart. Stay safe.