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Data sharing critical to preventing identity fraud

MEDIA RELEASE


Data sharing critical to preventing identity fraud

Thursday 18 August, 2005

The theft of deceased people’s identity is a major contributor to the cost of identity fraud in New Zealand and could be prevented by better data sharing between government and the private sector.

Leading credit reporting agency Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) says fraud is estimated to cost the New Zealand and Australian economies $6.3 billion – and identity fraud was a major contributor. (Australian Institute of Criminology & PWC Serious Fraud in Australia and New Zealand 2003).

D&B General Manager, David Christiansen, said there were an increasing number of cases stemming from the use of deceased persons’ identities.

“The identities are used to acquire credit cards and gain access to government payments,” Mr Christiansen said.

“It would be relatively easy to address this type of identity fraud if the government allowed credit reporting agencies to place a deceased person’s details on their records for free.

“Under the current system the private sector can purchase this information. However this is an extremely costly exercise when there are millions of records to be updated. We need an approach to data sharing that is security, not revenue, focused.” Currently individual records can be purchased for about $20.00.

Mr Christiansen said it was common practice for offenders to tour cemeteries to collect names and dates of the births of children from their tombstones. The next step was to apply for death certi. cates through the mail and then use that information to apply for birth certi. cates. The birth certi. cates were then used to collect other documents, which were used to open bank accounts.

“Better data sharing could help address this problem,” Mr Christiansen said.

“These checks would also prevent unimaginable grief and distress to the families of the victims.” Mr Christiansen said while the full extent and severity of identity fraud in New Zealand remained unclear, there was growing evidence that identity fraud was growing rapidly.

- A survey last year found in Australia and New Zealand more than $456 million was lost in almost 28,000 fraud cases reported by 221 organisations between April 2002 and 2004. (KPMG 2004 Fraud Survey).

- The most common type of fraud involved obtaining finance or credit by deception (21% of offence types). False documents were used in the vast majority of cases (69%, or 107 cases) - 13% of cases involved stolen identity. (Australian Institute of Criminology 2003 PWC Serious Fraud in Australia and New Zealand 2003).

Mr Christiansen said while free access to these records remained unavailable, New Zealanders should protect their identity documents and remain vigilant of their own financial affairs.

ENDS

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