Online identity fraud doubles to 1 in 10
Online identity fraud doubles to 1 in 10
1 August 2011
A recent survey revealing online identity fraud has doubled in 4 years to 10%, demonstrates the need for people to fast track their education on the ways they can be swindled, and what the effects can be should they become victims of identity theft, a national credit repairer says.
Director of MyCRA Credit Repairs, Graham Doessel says there is a host of information for internet users about how to stay safe online, but many people don’t learn about identity theft until they or someone they know becomes a victim.
“Often it is not understood how easy it is for criminals to steal peoples’ personal information or bank details online, and then use that information to take out credit in the victim’s name,” Mr Doessel says.
The survey, conducted by Galaxy Research and released by VeriSign Authentification Services showed how 10% of the 2510 Australians surveyed have lost money to online fraud in the past year, with those losses reported to total $1.286 billion.
This figure appears to have doubled from Australian Bureau of Statistics data which surveyed over 16,000 Australians for its Personal Fraud Survey in 2007.
The data showed 5% of Australians or 800,000 people had been the victim of personal fraud. These figures were across the board, including but not exclusive to internet use.
Mr Doessel attributes the increase in identity fraud to a growth in general use of the internet, with more people socialising, banking and conducting shopping and business online than ever.
“With the increase in internet use is the potential for criminals to mastermind a profit from that use. What is not known from the recent figures is how many of those identity fraud victims have had the crime impact their credit rating. Certainly more of our credit repair clients than ever are claiming to be victims of fraud,” he says.
Sometimes when criminals take out credit in someone else’s name, the victim is not aware of the fraud immediately. Any kind of credit account (from mortgages and credit cards through to mobile phone accounts) which remains unpaid past 60 days can be listed as a default by creditors on the victim’s credit rating.
“So the fraudster could abuse someone’s good name all over town and it is not until the victim applies for credit and is refused, that they learn about the identity theft and subsequent fraud,” Mr Doessel says.
Credit rating defaults remain on credit files in Australia for 5 years. Mr Doessel says the consequence of people having a black mark on their credit rating is generally an inability to obtain credit.
“Most of the major banks refuse credit to people who have defaults, or even too many credit enquiries, so it is really essential to keep a clean credit record,” he says.
By law in Australia, if a listing contains inconsistencies the credit file holder has the right to negotiate their amendment or removal.
“To clear their good name, the identity theft victim needs to prove to creditors they did not initiate the credit – which can be difficult. Not only are victims generally required to produce police reports, but large amounts of documentary evidence to substantiate to creditors the case of identity theft,” Mr Doessel says.
He says the best way to fix identity theft is for people to get educated to be able to properly protect themselves against fraud.
The Government has two websites with a host of information about safe computer use for internet users. Its Stay Smart Online website www.staysmartonline.gov.au gives people information on how they can secure their computer, as well as safety tips for the whole family.
The SCAMwatch website www.scamwatch.gov.au specifically warns internet users about scams in the community. Visitors can log on to an alert system for any new scams which are found to threaten the safety of people and their personal information.
The Stay Smart Online website recommends Australians follow these 8 top tips for increasing their resistance to identity fraud, and avoiding the loss to their bank balance and potentially their good name:
1. Install and renew your security software
and set it to scan regularly.
2. Turn on automatic updates on all your software, including your operating system and other applications.
3. Think carefully before you click on links or attachments, particularly in emails and on social networking sites.
4. Regularly adjust your privacy settings on social networking sites.
5. Report or talk to someone about anything online that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened – download the government’s Cybersafety Help Button.
6. Stop and think before you post any photos or financial or personal information about yourself, your friends or family.
7. Use strong passwords and change them at least twice a year.
8. Talk within your family about good online safety.
For more information on credit rating repair following identity theft, people can visit MyCRA’s website www.mycra.com.au