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Be wary of those scams and safeguard your identity

Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Internal Affairs

7 March 2008
Media Statement

Be wary of those scams and safeguard your identity

As part of Fraud Awareness Week, Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker has reminded New Zealanders to protect their most valuable commodity – their personal identity.

"Any of us can be the target of identity fraud. This might happen if someone steals your identity details and then purports to be you. They might apply for a loan in your name or use your identity to enable another crime. Identity fraud is a growing problem and this Labour–led Government has put in place a range of measures to make it harder for fraudsters to succeed." Mr Barker said.

"The Government is totally committed to reducing identity fraud and scams that rip the public off. There are a number of initiatives in place to tackle this issue. Since 2003 all new passports have been checked against death records which, ensures that criminals cannot use the identity of dead people to get false passports.

“In 2005 a chip enabled ePassport was introduced. This new passport provides an additional layer of security making it extremely difficult for people to forge passports or use another person’s lost or stolen document. In addition we have also significantly increased penalties for passport fraud. Anyone committing passport fraud is likely to be caught and when they are they face the prospect of long prison terms and/or hefty fines.

"On the wider front the Government is undertaking a series of initiatives to ensure the public can have confidence in the security of identity information. These initiatives include the Evidence of Identity Standard which I launched in 2006. There has also been considerable work in developing an initiative that will give Kiwis the option of conducting transactions on-line in a secure, privacy protected online environment,” Mr Barker said.

Another important milestone has been the implementation of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007, and the establishment of an Anti-Spam Unit in the Department of Internal Affairs in September last year.

“This means we are now active in the global fight against spam, many of which are scams. The Act prevents us becoming a ‘spammer haven’ by allowing us to fight New Zealand sourced spam. It also allows us to enter into international agreements to share information and pursue cross-border complaints," Mr Barker said.

Penalties for spamming range from formal warnings to infringement notices and court actions (with a maximum fine of $500,000 for an organisation or $200,000 for an individual).

"The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Bill is also currently working its way through the House. The Bill and its subsequent amendments seek to protect the public from identity fraud and misuse of personal information, while still allowing legitimate public access to information held by the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry. It was reported back by Select Committee in November 2007 and is currently awaiting second reading.

“I strongly encourage everyone to get behind Fraud Awareness Week. If we can all make the effort to keep one step ahead of the crims we will make good progress in the fight against fraud. Fraud Awareness Week gives us the opportunity to take a stand,” Mr Barker said.


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