It seems like huge systems failures are par for the course now-a-days with Australian and global company firewalls breached by talented hackers. That’s hard when some system hold your details that could have catastrophic financial implications for you. You need to make sure your identity remains as safe as it can be, so what can you do to protect yourself when it comes to online security?
There are multiple ways your identity can be stolen – from a lost wallet to using public wifi. You may even have your information stolen when you use an ATM or check your emails.
A thief can steal you information – from your street address, driving license and passport number. Only a small amount of information is needed to compromise your identity because public sources from social media which contains your birth date, photos and information about your family can be matched. Scary, isn’t it.
A whopping 9.7 million people were affected by the recent Optus breach by hackers thought to work for an international criminal organisation. That’s almost half of the Australian population! Furthermore, the cost of cybercrimes across Australia is upwards of $1.6 billion per year, with a majority of $900m lost by individuals through credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.
Many people don’t know they’ve been the victim of identity theft until their personal information has already been used.
You may wonder who else could potentially steal your identity because it does happen. If you can’t trust the ‘big guys’ with their multibillion security, what can you do?
Call your bank and financial institution
The first thing you should do is call your bank of financial institution and check for illegal activity or amount or withdrawals you haven’t spent. Search for small amounts that may have been taken out and check merchant ID’s.
Get your credit report. A credit report is a summary of your credit history. You can ask for a free credit report if you’ve been refused credit within the past 90 days or your credit-related personal information has been corrected.
You can request a copy of your credit report from these credit reporting bodies:
- Equifax, phone 138 332
- Experian, phone 1300 783 684
- illion, phone 1300 734 806
Credit reporting bodies may hold different information about you, so you may need to request a copy of your credit report from each credit reporting body.
Put a credit alerting flag on your account. This will alert you when someone applies for a line of credit or add ons in your name. The monitoring service will help you keep track of exactly what going on with your credit.
When you ring your bank or financial instruction to tell them someone is using your identity, ask them to freeze your accounts and change your passwords or personal identification number (PIN) and issue new cards.
Report the fraud
You should report the fraud to the Australian Cyber Security Centre
Here you can report cases of cyber bullying, online fraud, online image abuse, identity theft, cyber security incidents and ransomware or malware. They’ll help you decide your next steps and create a recovery plan. By acting quickly, you might be able to mitigate the damage and financial liability.
Report the fraud to the ATO
There are numerous tax scams that happen all of the time. If you know or suspect that someone has stolen your tax file number (TFN) or is using your tax-related information illegally, phone the ATO on 1800 467 033 as soon as you can. Tax fraud can occur with:
- a stolen or misused tax file number
- a stolen BAS
- access of you MyGov account
- access to the ATO portal without your permission
- inappropriately accessing your personal information within MyGov
- inappropriate business information in the Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM)
- thinking someone has falsely used your personal information to set up a self-managed super fund (SMSF) under your name or made changes to your existing SMSF to gain access to your superannuation.
Pro Tax Tip: Keep you TFN safe. Only give it to your employer, banks and financial instructions, government services and your tax agent.
If you have any questions regarding tax-related cyber security issues, your tax agent can help you access the ATO portals and make sure your tax information is secure.
File a police report
It may sound extreme, but if you’ve been the victim of identity theft it pays to file a police report. Theft can occur in many forms, and can include:
- Theft of mail articles and bills
- Theft of wallets, bags and purses
- Skimming of credit and debit cards via ATMs or EFTPOS terminals
- Internet scams including phishing emails or spoofing sites designed to replicate banking and payment sites
- Remote access scams giving access to a computer
- Malicious computer programs such as malware or spyware
- Telemarketing scams
- Hacking of websites or business servers containing personal information databases
- Fake online social media profiles
Protect your identity
There are a few things you can do to make it harder for someone to hack your identity. At home, keep your financial records, TFN and Medicare numbers in a safe location. Shred documents with financial details and remove your letters and bills from your letterbox as soon as possible. If online, make sure you have a software program that protects against malware and ransomware.
Do not give your personal details out over email or text. Don’t respond to emails to click links on emails or text. Always ring back if you’re contacted via phone to verify the information. Don’t use public networks for wifi.
Use complex passwords that have a combination of letter, numbers and symbols.
If your personal and financial information has been hacked, don’t panic. It’s frustrating but if you take action quickly you can minimise the impact on your finances. It’s important to take precautions if you haven’t been hacked to ensure it doesn’t happen. Be sure to store your financial records properly and stay on top of reviewing your bank, credit, and service statements.
And while you’re at it, be sure to review other aspects of your financial health, such as your retirement plan, your budget, your superannuation and tax planning actions.