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How to protect yourself from identity theft online

Identity theft is currently dominating news headlines in Australia, with Medibank and Optus cybersecurity breaches in the top spots.

However, the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ACSC) Annual Cyber Security Report for July 2021 to June 2022 stated that the severity of the cyber security crimes the organisation responded to had increased during the period.

Online fraud was at the top of the list, followed by online shopping and banking cybercrimes.

Besides the financial implications, cybercrimes cause such damage to a business’s reputation that many struggle to make a comeback. It is challenging to regain the trust of customers whose data has been compromised. When deeply personal information is exposed, the cost of the customers’ angst cannot be assessed in purely monetary terms.

The fear of identity theft also becomes an issue for customers when large companies experience security breaches.

What is identity theft?

ACSC clarifies identity theft as “when a cybercriminal gains access to your personal information to steal money or gain other benefits. ACSC explains, “They can create fake identity documents in your name, get loans and benefits or apply for real identity documents in your name, but with another person’s photograph.”

Scary, right?

What do criminals need for identity theft?

Cybercriminals want personal information, including your full name, date of birth, address, ATO number, passport details, driver’s licence number, credit card details, and Medicare card details. They may even try to access your banking PIN and passwords.

How do you know you are the victim of identity theft?

You probably won’t know until bills for purchases you never actioned turn up.

Other warning signs are your mail ceasing to arrive, your bank statement reflecting purchases you never made, and debt collectors hounding you for bills you never ran up.

You could receive notifications for a credit card you haven’t applied for, and a government agency could contact you to say you are the recipient of benefits for which you also didn’t apply.

Naturally, you won’t be the actual recipient because the money goes into the cybercriminal’s pocket. Often you will be unaware until you apply for credit and find you have mysteriously acquired a bad credit history. Ouch!

How can you protect yourself from identity theft?

You are not paranoid if you avoid sharing information in this so-called information age; just sensible.

The following are a few tips for keeping cyber safe:

  • Don’t put your actual birthdate on social media.
  • Don’t post photos of your new home with the address
  • Don’t post pictures of your car with the number plate visible.
  • Don’t identify your child’s school.
  • Don’t give out your mother’s maiden name,
  • Avoid saying which school you attended

Hackers use much of the above information to commit identity theft.

Other tips include changing social media settings to PRIVATE, so only your family and friends can see what you post, and not accepting friend requests from strangers.

Most large institutions state they will not ask for personal information online, so beware of phishing emails that appear legit, asking for updates to PINs or passwords. Don’t use links from messages to access an organisation. Instead, type in the name of the organisation’s URL into your browser.

Hackers are clever so software companies keep updating their anti-virus and ransomware protection to stay ahead of cybercriminals. For a small amount each month, you can keep yourself safe from this kind of cybercriminal activity by keeping anti-virus ware up to date and having a professional IT company run ongoing real-time checks.

How vulnerable are Australians to identity theft and online fraud?

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), 25% of Australians have been victims of online scams. The most commonly reported crimes were investment and romance scams, false billing and remote access scams.

In some parts of Australia, however, identity fraud was more prevalent, and often it was not the consumer’s fault but the result of hacks of large organisations. People aged 45 and over appear to be the most vulnerable.

What can you do to minimise vulnerability?

If you are still determining the best anti-virus protection for your business or personal use, contact Australia’s leading experts in IT support for your cyber security needs.

Buzz-A-Geek has trained professionals who monitor online activity and alert you to potential hazards as they arise. We can install the latest anti-virus software and add updates as these become available to keep you protected.

If you want to know more about cyber security, set up a backup system to protect data in case of a virus, or restore corrupted files, please call our friendly team. The team is eager to help protect Australians from the ravages of cyber criminals and the ransomware and malware they can plant in your computer. Check out the Buzz-A-Geek website to see how we can assist with all cybersecurity measures.

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