Identity theft…what can we do to prevent it and in doing so protect our credit rating from misuse? We look at how it occurs, and what the Federal Government is doing to help minimise the instances of identity fraud through implementing a better system of verifying important personal information.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and

How do identity thieves go about taking credit out in your name? If they have enough personal information about you, such as your full name, date of birth, and heaven forbid your mother’s maiden name – fraudsters can forge identity documents, or request new ones in your name, which then gives them access to funds via your clean credit rating. This credit is left owing and you are stuck with a mountain of debt, and a bad credit rating you probably don’t even know about until you go and apply for credit yourself and are refused because of defaults you didn’t initiate.

This doesn’t occur as regularly as other types of personal fraud – but it occurs more than you might think. Current statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010-11 Personal Fraud Survey estimates that a total of 1.2 million Australians, or 6.7% of the population aged 15 years and over, were a victim of at least one incident of personal fraud in the 12 months prior to interview. Within these figures, 0.3% of the population had been a victim of specific identity theft. This amounts to 44,700 Australians. These were the people who admitted to being duped. Identity theft is one of the most under-reported crimes, due mostly to embarrassment from the victims. It is also extremely difficult to Police, with it often being initiated from overseas crime syndicates. So prevention in this case is often better than the cure.

For those of you who have been following our updates on identity theft prevention, you may remember the government’s introduction of The Document Verification Service – a national service which allowed government agencies which took it up to verify documents. In May the Attorney-General announced her plans to roll the DVS out into the private sector we blogged about this then in the article Identity theft prevention in budget 2012. She spoke yesterday of the intended service, and said it will be available for the private sector from 2013.

Yesterday Computerworld published an article Identity crime in sights of Australian Attorney-General detailing the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s comments about the DVS during the Security 2012 conference in Sydney.

She told delegates the move will save businesses money by reducing unnecessary manual processes, data collection and record keeping.

“It will also help to support law enforcement agencies such as the Australian Federal Police

[AFP] in their efforts against identity crime,” she said.

The DVS was introduced as an electronic online system used by government agencies to check whether a proof-of-identity document that has been presented by a person applying for a benefit or service is authentic. If a document matches information held by the issuing agency, a positive response is returned. The service does not store personal information, but allows verification only.

“Requests to verify a document are encrypted and sent via a secure communications pathway to the document issuing agency,” Ms Roxon says in a statement on the AG website.

A spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Department said that it expects to be able receive applications for private sector access to the DVS from the end of 2012.

“This would allow the private sector to commence verifications of documents from September 2013, possibly earlier,” the spokesperson told Computerworld.

The Federal Government set aside $7.5 million in this year’s Budget to extend the DVS to the private sector from 2013-14.

“The DVS will provide a tool to help reduce the incidence of identity fraud and improve the integrity of consumer identification used by the banking and finance, telecommunications, aviation and maritime security industries,” read the Budget 2012-13 documents.

Perhaps the introduction of the DVS into the private sector will encourage those government agencies which have failed to take up the service to implement it.

Last year prior to the private sector introduction, the DVS was criticised for its inadequate take up amongst government identity issuer and user agencies. At the time we blogged about it (Can official documents be forged to commit identity fraud?), agencies such as Centrelink, the Department of Immigration, and state road authorities and birth and death registries, were not connected to DVS.

Images: photostock/