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Protect your identity, keep it safe

What is your identity information and why it is important to keep it safe

Source: eSafety Commissioner

Your identity information is any piece of personal information, or data, that can help to confirm who you are or how to find you. It may be information on its own or in context with other information.

It can include everyday things that are specific to you, like your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • phone number
  • home address
  • email address
  • usernames to websites (including myGov), passwords or passphrases
  • tax file number
  • Medicare number
  • Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN)
  • bank account details
  • location check-ins
  • parents’ names
  • photos
  • biometrics like your fingerprint or facial image.

Your credentials (otherwise known as evidence of identity documents) could include:

  • driver licence
  • passport
  • birth certificate
  • proof of age card
  • ImmiCard
  • Australian visa or citizenship certificate
  • Medicare card
  • student ID
  • marriage certificate.

Your identity information and credentials make up your legal identity.

We use these pieces of information all the time to access products and services. For example, when we supply our birth certificate, driver licence and/or Medicare card to open a bank account, or give out our name, phone and email address to a business to sign up for newsletters or when we buy things online.

But this information can be stolen or misused.

Identity crime explained

Source: Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Identity crime (also known as identity theft or fraud) involves someone using another individual’s identity information without consent, often to obtain a benefit. For example, identity fraud can result in someone using your identity to:

  • steal money from your bank account
  • take out loans or credit cards in your name
  • take out phone plans and other contracts
  • access your superannuation
  • use your online accounts to redirect money and commit other crimes
  • access your social media accounts and impersonate you to scam your family and friends
  • create new identity credentials using your details.

Your identity can be stolen if someone accesses your identity information, including from any document that contains information about you. Even if someone only accesses a small amount of your identity information, they may be able to steal your identity if they can find out more about you from public sources. This includes social media accounts which may include your date of birth, photos and information about your family.

There are many types of fraud and scammers can reach you via many ways such as social media, email, SMS and phone calls. If you are being asked to update information or receive a refund or prize, don’t give out your identity information until you are sure it is legitimate.

That is why it is important to keep your identity information as private and secure as possible. If you must share it, make sure it is only used with your permission and you have verified and trust the organisation or person you give it to.

The NSW Government has created this useful Identity Management Day video on what identity theft is and some useful steps to protect yourself online.

Signs your identity has been stolen

Source: Australian Federal Police

Signs that you might be a victim of identity crime

  • Items appear on your credit card statements that you don’t recognise.
  • Someone steals or obtains a government benefit/payment/refund in your name.
  • You receive bills or invoices for goods or services you haven't asked for.
  • Mail expected from your bank doesn’t arrive or you receive no post at all.
  • You are refused a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history.
  • A mobile phone contract is set up in your name without your knowledge.
  • You receive letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren't yours.

What to do if you believe you are a victim of identity crime

Source: Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

If you have been a victim of identity crime or suspect your identity has been stolen, it is important to act quickly to minimise any financial loss or other damage.

  • Contact your financial institution and tell them what happened.
  • Report the matter to your local police and ask for a police report or reference number so you have evidence that you reported the issue. You can present this to an organisation, such as a government agency, a financial institution or a credit agency, to help support your claim that you have been the victim of identity crime. This may help you to fix your business or personal affairs with the organisation.
  • Change your account passwords and close any unauthorised accounts.
  • If you know that one or more of your identity documents has been compromised, contact the issuing organisation and let them know.
  • If you’ve clicked on a suspicious link or given your identity information to a scammer impersonating myGov or Services Australia (including Centrelink, Medicare or Child Support), call Services Australia’s Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk. The helpdesk will support you with advice about how to protect yourself and your identity information.
  • You may wish to contact IDCARE. IDCARE is a not-for-profit organisation that offers specialist services including counselling and support for victims to recover their identity. IDCARE can help you make a plan (for free) to limit the damage from identity theft. You can call on 1800 595 160 or visit the IDCARE website to find out more.

Links and resources

Privacy and your personal information

The Privacy Act 1988 sets out rules to control how your personal information is handled. This includes rules about:

  • collecting personal information
  • using and disclosing personal information
  • accessing your own personal information
  • correcting your personal information
  • making a privacy complaint if you think an organisation has mishandled your personal information.

You can find more information about the Privacy Act at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.

Identity theft and scams

Source: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Scammers will often try to deceive you into handing over money and identity information. They then use your information to perpetrate other scams, steal money or gain other benefits, like taking out loans or applying for government services.

Identity fraud often begins with “phishing.” Phishing is a way that scammers deceive you into giving them your identity information. They may gain your trust by pretending to be from a bank, the government, a trusted business, or even a friend or family member. For example, scammers impersonating your bank may send you a message asking you to click on a link to verify your account or a particular transaction. Clicking this link will direct you to a fake website which will steal any identity information you enter including passwords and log on credentials.

Anyone can be a victim of a scam. Scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and hard to spot. Scams constantly change as scammers take advantage of new technology, new or familiar brands, products and services, and local events or crises.

Learn more about scam types, how to spot them, how to avoid them, and how to report them on the Scamwatch website.

Cyber security and identity

Protecting yourself online can help you keep your identity secure. Many criminals use malware or scams to access your device and take your identity information, passwords and banking information to steal money or gain other benefits.

For information on how to protect yourself online and prevent your identity information falling into the wrong hands, visit the Australian Cyber Security Centre website.

Commonwealth, states and territories

For identity security information in your location, please see the helpful links below: