Identity theft and fraud is again on the agenda for Australians. This week is National Identity Fraud Awareness Week (NIFAW) – which runs from 17 to 23 October.

To tie in with this week, the Australian Federal Police have today gone live with an Identity Fraud survey on their website, aimed at empowering people to protect themselves from the serious consequences of identity crime.

We encourage everyone to take this survey. Currently the statistics on identity theft may be skewed due to a lack of reporting of the crime. Sometimes this is due to embarrassment, and other times it is because people believe the financial loss is minimal. Unfortunately, that may paint a less scary picture of identity fraud than should be the case.

The Herald Sun in its article,’If you think you’re identity is safe, think again’ reported NIFAW spokesperson, Peter Campbell as saying it was worrying that most Australians underestimated the prevalence of identity fraud in this country.

“A total of 52 per cent of those surveyed estimated that less than 100,000 Australian were victims,” he said.

“However, this latest survey shows the true figure to be 2.6 million – a very significant difference. Mr Campbell says these victims all lost over $1000.

“We all need to be aware of the risks and take responsibility for our personal information to prevent becoming a victim.”

An important point coming from these statistics, is the impression amongst Australians that identity fraud is not serious, or doesn’t really have the potential to ruin someone’s life. Even at low amounts, fraud can have significance beyond the minimal monetary loss.

When identity fraud is initiated due to criminals having access to a person’s personal details and new credit is issued in the person’s name – often the victim is unaware of non-payments until they have defaults attributed to them on their credit file. Many people don’t pick up on it until they attempt to take out credit in their own right and are refused because they have these adverse listings they have no knowledge of.

The difficulty in this instance is in investigating the origin of the fraud, and convincing creditors the credit file holder has been the victim of identity fraud. This generally requires lots of documentary evidence that may or may not be available, and Police reports.

Not only can people potentially lose money through identity fraud, they can also lose their ability to obtain credit in the future.

Defaults through late payments, once listed by creditors remain there for 5 years if the victim is unable to convince them the fraud occurred and have the adverse listing/s removed. People can’t even get a mobile phone plan when they have defaults, let alone personal loans or mortgages.

The other nightmare that can come about when fraudsters’ gain access to their victim’s credit file, is the potential that they can generate significant amounts of credit debt in the victim’s name. Some victims have had large amounts of credit taken out in their name, white goods and cars purchased, even in some cases properties mortgaged and sold in their names.

The AFP urges people to take a stronger stance on personal protection from identity fraud, as the circumstances in which fraud occurs are not always simple.

“Identity fraud is an emerging threat to Australia and is growing rapidly.  Be aware that identity fraudsters are specialists at manipulating their victims, including their trust, friendliness, loneliness, fears, concerns or financial situation”, Commander Chris McDevitt from the AFP says.

The AFP hosts multi-agency Identity Security Strike Teams (ISST’s) in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.  The teams work closely with state law enforcement partners, financial institutions and government agencies to address the issue of identity theft for financial gain.

Whilst banks have fraud insurance to help reimburse identity fraud victims, Australians should be aware there is no ‘reimbursement’ for future monies lost due to identity fraud affecting a person’s credit file 5 years. A bad credit rating can severely financially disadvantage individuals. People are unable to obtain credit through normal channels while defaults are present on their credit file. Often they are forced into finance at higher interest rates which can cost them tens of thousands over the term of the default.

Our message at MyCRA Credit Repairs is: please take steps to protect your credit rating from fraud!

Educate yourself – visit the government sites like SCAMwatch, Stay Smart Online, and the Attorney-General’s website. If people are interested in keeping up to date with what could be occurring – say in cyber-circles they can visit technology sites like ZD Net Australia or even subscribe to MyCRA’s RSS Feed for updates on security issues affecting credit files.

Know what’s on your credit file – grab a free copy of your credit file today from one or more of Australia’s credit reporting agencies, Veda Advantage, Dun & Bradstreet, and TASCOL in Tasmania which will be mailed to you within 10 days.

Your credit report is free every 12 months – take advantage of this by ordering a copy every year. Make sure there are no defaults currently attached to your file. If they shouldn’t be there or there are errors – you may be eligible for credit repair.

If you feel vulnerable to fraud, for a fee Veda offers an ‘alert’ service, which informs you of ANY changes to your credit file such as a change of contact details or a credit enquiry, which would point to you being a victim of identity theft – possibly BEFORE there are harmful defaults put against your name.

For more information on identity theft, or help with credit repair following identity theft, contact MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs tollfree on 1300 667 218 or visit our website

Image: Chris Sharp /