In the future, the security of your personal information may be more crucial than ever. A warning coming from the Australian Crime Commission that organised crime groups will be more likely to hone in on opportunities associated with identity theft to commit crimes in the future. This could have serious implications for every aspect of your life. Your identity is basically your good name, and financially, it is also the key to your ability to obtain credit through your credit file. If you become an identity theft victim, you may also become a victim of credit fraud and end up in serious debt and with bad credit history for years. We look at what is happening, what is predicted for the future, and the 10 ways you can protect your personal information.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has said at a national conference for credit professionals that identity crime is used by almost all of the serous and organised criminal groups operating in Australia and is a key enabling activity for a range of frauds.
The ACC’s Chief Executive Officer, John Lawler presented at the Dun and Bradstreet Consumer Credit Conference, ‘Credit risk in Australia – The road ahead’ last week. Mr Lawler spoke on ‘Global trends in consumer fraud’. Mr Lawler said identity crime is a “key facilitator” for organised crime groups because it is an anonymous crime which can enable significant fraud.
“Every single person in this room and the various sectors and organisations that you represent are targets for organised crime,” he told the Conference.
“Criminals will exploit technology to not only carry out new crimes but commit traditional crimes on a much larger scale.”
The ACC estimates organised crime is currently costing the Australian economy at least $15 billion per annum – and that the impacts of this are significant and growing.
Globally, the cost of cyber-crime alone has been calculated at $388 billion annually. This is more than the global market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288 billion).
Mr Lawler says the amount of personal information requested and stored online, along with the growing popularity of social networking sites, provides organised crime with a larger pool of victims and data to harvest:
•Phishing attacks have become well designed and targeted.
•Companies are being increasingly targeted as criminals are attracted to large volumes of data stored in single systems.
•Organised criminals are also warehousing data for later use, making it more difficult to detect when and how data breaches have occurred.
He says that the most threatening crime groups are diversified in the nature of their crimes – so they are running several ‘games’ and warned that these groups are increasing their level of involvement in fraud. He says this is due to the big pay offs. It’s anonymous so generates less risk, whilst bringing in “some significant profits.” The range of fraud types can include credit card fraud, mass marketed fraud, revenue and taxation fraud, superannuation fraud and financial market fraud.
“Organised criminals seek to conduct significant research on their intended victims and tailoring their operations to target weaknesses.
Serious and organised crime is embracing technology and the cyber environment like never before. The use by organised crime of professional facilitators, the use of false and stolen identities provides them with access to systems and data on an unprecedented scale. One manifestation of this is the unlawful access to and supply of illicit commodities, malware and illegal firearms through online sites such as darknets.
This interface is occurring at all levels from an individual perpetrator to sophisticated serious and organised criminal networks. The anonymity and obfuscation of identity/location provided by the cyber environment facilitates these criminal acts,” he said.
He warned of the prevalence of “white-collar” fraud like investment fraud. Which don’t target the naïve, but target those with plenty of money looking to invest prior to retiring. The scams are extremely well thought out:
“Fraudulent syndicates rely on establishing a perception of legitimacy, trustworthiness and success. Syndicates typically establish virtual offices or fictitious corporations which mirror legitimate businesses. They build a perception of legitimacy through highly professional looking websites that provide press releases and make false claims of outstanding corporate performance. They are often linked to false regulator sites and can manipulate search engine data so that those undertaking due diligence are provided with affirmative responses in relation to the investments that are being yielded,” he explained.
The ACC says education is key to improving our steeliness against this type of crime. They have written a letter via Australia Post to every householder in Australia warning of the risks of serious and organised investment fraud in Australia.
But they say both businesses and the public sector have a role to play in understanding the ways they can minimise risk to all consumers.
1. Keep virus software up to date on your computer. Install automatic updates and perform regular virus scans.
2. Keep your privacy settings secure on all social networking sites.
3. Keep your passwords and PIN numbers secure. Don’t carry PIN numbers with your credit/debit cards, change passwords regularly and use a variety of passwords for different purposes.
4. Check all your credit card and bank statements each time they come in.
5. Cross-shred all personally identifiable information which we no longer need, rather than throwing it straight in the bin.
6. Buy a safe for your personal information at home.
7. Don’t give any personal information or credit card details to anyone via phone or email unless you are sure the site is secure, and or you can verify the company details.
8. Be aware of who gets your personal information and for what purposes. What can these people do with the information they are gathering? For instance, is it really necessary for the site you are registering on to have your date of birth?
9. Keep up to date with the latest scams by subscribing to the government’s ‘SCAM watch’ website.
10. Check your credit file for free every 12 months. By requesting a copy of your credit file from one or more of the major credit reporting agencies, you can be aware of any discrepancies which may need to investigated. Often it is only through a credit check which comes back with defaults on your credit file that many realise they have been victims of identity theft.
Report any incident of identity theft, no matter how small, or even if you have been reimbursed for the damage – to the Police. The more people that report identity theft, the more effective will be Australia’s Government and Police response to it.
If you are already an identity theft victim, it can be difficult to navigate the current credit reporting system to have the bad credit history removed from your credit file.
MyCRA Credit Repairs can completely remove bad credit history such as defaults, clearouts, writs and Judgments from credit files that have errors, are unjust or just shouldn’t be there. Contact a Credit Repair Advisor on 300 667 218 or visit www.mycra.com.au for more information.
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