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Identity crime is one of the fastest growing crimes in Australia and affects around 900,000 people every year. This has prompted the Australian Federal Police to team up with the National Identity Fraud Awareness Week in an attempt to curtail the growing number of victims.

The Attorney-General’s Department estimates that identity theft is costing Australians around $1.6 billion every year – the majority of which being accumulated through credit card fraud. Perhaps more crucially, identity theft is one of the key sources of income for serious organised crime, which in turn costs the nation an astonishing $15 billion a year.

The campaign aims to educate people on the signs of identity theft, and to highlight that not only individuals, but also businesses must be aware of criminals stealing their identity, stressing that simple changes in behaviour can help circumvent the dangers.

The national Identity Fraud Prevention week will take place in October, but in the meantime, utilising the advice of the NIFPW team, you can learn some of the facts surrounding identity fraud and some of the ways you can protect yourself from it.

What Is Identify Fraud and How Is It Done?

Identity fraud can take place in many ways, but essentially it's when a criminal third party acquires the personal information of an individual or business, and then uses the information to make purchases or raid your account by assuming your identity. This can be done through several ways. At home for example, thieves can steal your personal documents from your rubbish bin, such as bank statements, items with your address, pre-approved credit cards, and tax information, to name a few. When moving premises, by failing to redirect mail you could be leaving the door open to fraudsters as well.

The advent of the internet has brought with it many opportunities to make money - both legitimately and illegitimately. One of the most common ways for fraudsters to target businesses online is through phishing scams, which aim to convince the victim that they are in contact with a legitimate authority, like their bank or the government, then steal details from them that will help them acquire money. In 2013, many Australian businesses were targeted from phishing and hacking scams, which goes to show how anyone can be affected by these crimes.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Business?

The good news is, identity fraud can be tackled by taking some sensible steps. Where possible, avoid sharing sensitive details online, such as bank and card information. These days, there are services that are gaining in popularity which actually eliminate the need to enter such personal data. Paysafecard for example, allow the user to purchase credit with cash and enter a one-time PIN at an online checkout, with the major music streaming service Spotify getting on board the payment system.

For you and your business, certain steps can easily be taken to ensure no one falls victim to fraudsters. These include:

  • Ensure documents are well-stored and protected, then shredded if no longer needed.
  • Educate staff about any potential threats.
  • Keep your firewall and anti-virus software up-to-date.

Even though identity theft is a growing global problem, it can easily be tackled by smart tactics and clear awareness from the companies and employees.

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