A significant identity crime  saga has unfolded right here in Australia. We look at how $37.5 million was extracted from victims of credit card fraud. And we give you an idea of the important steps you can take to protect yourself and your credit file from fraud, identity theft and subsequent bad credit.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.

Federal Police have arrested and charged a Sydney couple for their role in what Police are calling the “most significant identity crime syndicate disruption” in Australia’s history.

A 40-year-old Ryde man and a 48-year-old Ryde woman were arrested and charged on Thursday. This brings the total arrests since October 2011 to eight from what Police are describing as a highly sophisticated identity crime syndicate.

“Police have now seized more than 15,000 false credit cards, with an estimated potential fraud value of $37.5 million. This includes 12,000 false credit cards seized in November 2011, which was the largest singular seizure of fake credit cards in Australian history. Major manufacturing equipment has also been seized throughout the investigation.

The arrests come as a result of an Identity Security Strike Team (ISST) investigation which began in April 2011. The investigation focused on the activities of a Sydney based crime syndicate involved in the manufacture and supply of fraudulent identity documents and credit cards.

The ISST is comprised of members from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), New South Wales Police Force, New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC),” AFP announced in a joint media release on Thursday.

Police will allege that the couple was manufacturing fraudulent documents from their home to falsely obtain credit cards. They will appear in a Hornsby Court on October 25.

These victims may now be facing defaults and other negative credit listings on their credit file. Thankfully, arrests have been made, names have been recovered and those people who did fall victim, may have a chance at recovering their good name.

For those victims in similar but separate incidents, they may not be so lucky to have had their perpetrators arrested. Restoring their clean credit file in this situation can be a nightmare to say the least. First they have the debt owing, then to clear the credit listings from their credit file so they can borrow money again – they need to prove they didn’t initiate the credit in the first place.

This can be tricky if they don’t know when or how the identity theft occurred, and don’t have a perpetrator. Some can be faced with 5 to 7 years of bad credit through no fault of their own.

So prevention is really better than the cure. If you want to know how you might prevent this happening to you, check out the identity theft prevention tips put out by www.Savingsguide.com.au over the weekend. You never know, just one thing you do differently could see you preventing having your life turned upside down from bad credit due to identity theft.

Prevent Identity Theft: 10 Steps

Identity theft is an increasing risk in today’s hyper-technological world, and can have significant effects on our finances. While there are means to redress the problem, like all things, it’s better to prevent identity theft from occurring than to fix it after the fact. Here are ten ways to protect yourself, inspired by Reader’s Digest.

#1: Cover Your Card
It’s not being paranoid to cover your card when using it. In the days of mobile phones, it’s fairly easy to take a snap of card and use the digits later. It doesn’t take much to keep part of it covered.

#2: Check Your Statements
Often, an identity thief will take an initial, tiny amount out of your account to see if you’re checking it, then go in for the swoop a couple of days or weeks later. Check it once a week, and report anything you don’t recognise.

#3: Get Bills Online
There are protections against people seeing your bills online. Not so for people being able to nick them out of the letterbox.

#4: Destroy Financial Items
Recycling bins could be a treasure trove, so make sure your paper is well-shredded or, even better, good fodder for your next bonfire. Make sure your cards are seriously well cut up, and don’t chuck out half-filled loan applications without blacking out the details first.

#5: Strange ATMs
If the ATM looks different, or has an extra attachment on it, walk away and report it to the bank responsible.

#6: Debit Cards
Credit cards have fraud insurance, debit cards don’t. Be wary about where you are using the debit card, and stick to places you trust.

#7: Consider A Photo
Noticed that people at checkouts don’t even look at your signature? Scary isn’t it. Consider getting a credit card with your photo on it, it’s hard to miss and far harder to pass off as an identity thief.

#8: Lock Your Mailbox
New credit cards, debit cards and bills all come into your mailbox. It’s a simple thing to get a lock on it, and at least make it a sight harder for someone to steal the card and activate it.

#9: Keep Smart Online
Look for the SSL or TSSL padlocks whenever you’re entering any details, and don’t save financial data online. Quicker it may be, but far more exposed to identity theft.

[Ensure any financial transactions are made using a secure browser https rather than http.]

#10: Passwords And Pins
They’re almost impossible to remember, the plethora of pins and passwords we now need, but if you’re serious about protecting yourself from identity fraud, have several and change them often. Don’t keep your pin anywhere in your wallet, no matter how well-disguised. You can run into trouble with insurance should you have your pin close to your card and are a victim of identity theft.

If you have run into trouble restoring your good credit rating following identity theft, then you may be a candidate for credit repair. Credit repair is about uncovering and providing evidence for instances where the Creditor has unlawfully placed a default or other adverse listing on your credit file and negotiating on your behalf for the removal of that incorrect credit listing by the Creditor. We can put our vast knowledge of industry and credit reporting law behind your case and help negotiate the removal of bad credit which shouldn’t be there. Contact a Credit Repair Advisor on 1300 667 218 to discuss your suitability.

Image: nixxphotography/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net