SSO_Logo+WebHow can what you do online impact your ability to obtain credit? Understand the risks and protect your credit rating.

MyCRA is a partner for Cyber Security Awareness Week 2013, running this week until 24 May.  The aim of Awareness Week is to help Australians using the internet – whether at home, the workplace or school – understand the simple steps they can take to protect their personal and financial information online.

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

Cyber Security Awareness Week 2013 is an Australian Government initiative, held annually in partnership with industry, community and consumer groups and state and territory governments.

One of the big risks for Australians is that their internet use will lead to fraudsters stealing their personal information for purposes of identity theft (now the fastest growing crime in Australia) and potentially fraud. The good credit rating of the victim could then be damaged.

It is reported that 1 in 6 people in Australia is a victim or knows someone who has been a victim of identity theft or fraud in the past 6 months.

Victims are not always ‘gullible’ as may be the impression in the wider community. Many experts say it is not a matter of if you experience an identity theft attempt, but when.

Increasingly it comes from professional fraudsters whose main occupation is to steal personal information and financial details in order to commit fraud.

The internet is a big source of personal information and its ever increasing use makes you more vulnerable to identity crime than ever.  This means identity crime can have very long arms – often it originates from overseas crime syndicates. Social networking, online banking, company databases can also be sources.

The unlucky identity theft victim is unaware of the fraud until their identity is misused, and their credit rating with it. When identity theft damages your credit rating – it is because the fraudster has been able to overtake credit accounts, or has gained access to enough personally identifiable information about you to forge new identity documents.

If credit accounts are not repaid – after 60 days you may be issued with written notification of non-payment and the intention for the creditor to list a default on your credit file. It is at this moment that some people who were previously unaware of any problems find out they have been victims of this more sophisticated type of identity theft.

Protecting Your Financial Identity Online

stay smart onlineYou can provide a safety buffer for yourslef and your family around one of the main channels for fraudsters to enter our lives – the internet.

Remember the top tips

Stay Smart Online encourages all Australians to remember these ten simple tips to improve their online security:

  1. Install and update your security software and set it to scan regularly
  2. Turn on automatic updates on all your software, particularly your operating system and applications
  3. Use strong passwords and different passwords for different uses
  4. Stop and think before you click on links and attachments
  5. Take care when buying online – research the supplier and use a safe payment method
  6. Only download “apps” from reputable publishers and read all permission requests
  7. Regularly check your privacy settings on social networking sites
  8. Stop and think before you post any photos or financial information online
  9. Talk with your child about staying safe online, including on their smart phone or mobile device
  10. Report or talk to someone if you feel uncomfortable or threatened online – download the Government’s Cybersafety Help Button

For specific help with safe banking, we refer to the Australian Bankers’ Association’s recommendations:

Protect your passwords – ensure you keep confidential your PIN and Internet banking logons and passwords. Avoid using the same logon/passwords for multiple websites, especially when it enables access to websites that include sensitive personal information. Set a pass code for your device and a PIN for your SIM. If your banking app allows logon with a PIN, make sure it is different to the one used to unlock your       mobile device. Make sure your password or code is something that’s hard for others to guess but easy for you to remember.  A bank will never ask you to provide passwords or PINs by e-mail or over the telephone.

Lock – set your smartphone and tablet to automatically lock. The password will protect your device so that no-one else can use or view your information. Also store your device in a secure location.

Contact your bank if you lose your smartphone or tablet – call your bank immediately to tell staff about the loss and provide your new phone number, especially if your bank uses an SMS message to authenticate transactions.

Clear your mobile devices of text messages from banks especially before sharing, discarding or selling your device.

Be careful what you send via text – never use text messages to disclose any personal information, such as account numbers, passwords or other personal information that could be used to steal your identity.

Use only official apps – make sure to only use apps supplied by your financial institution and only download them from official app stores.

Delete spam and scam e-mail – if the offer sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

Guard identity information carefully and only provide it to trusted people and entities.  This includes date of birth, current address, driver’s licence and passport details.

Anyone interested in online safety should subscribe to the email notifications from Stay Smart Online Alert Service. The Stay Smart Online Alert Service is a free subscription based service that provides home users and small to medium enterprises with information on the latest computer network threats and vulnerabilities in simple, non-technical, easy to understand language. It also provides solutions to help manage these risks.

Also, you can look at securing different sections of your internet use in more depth with the help of Stay Smart Online’s key factsheets for online security.

Check your credit file regularly, and act quickly on any discrepancies there – which can often be the first sign of identity theft. Copies of credit files can be ordered from one or more of Australia’s credit reporting agencies, and are free for the credit file holder once per year.

Image 1: courtesy of Stay Smart Online

Image 2: Ambro/