Why is protecting yourself against identity theft so important? Because in this day and age, identity theft is no longer an avenue simply for criminals to “skip town” under your name, but has also become a lucrative business for those criminals who are interested in fraud. A seemingly perfect, often anonymous crime with very long arms, identity theft can not only see you losing your money, but also see you lumbered with bad credit history. And often you don’t even know it has occurred until you try to take out credit in your own right and are refused.

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

The President of the Law Society in South Australia, Ralph Bonig has written an article for Adelaide Now titled ‘In today’s hi-tech world, identity protection is the best option.’  In it, he reflects on recent events involving identity theft, including the new penalties for identity theft, and recent surveys on the scope of the problem here in Australia. He warns that with more electronic transactions comes more opportunities for illegal use of personal data.

“With the increase in international terrorism, law enforcement agencies have focused their efforts on identifying and combating identity fraud as an adjunct to anti-terrorism measures.

However, the exchange of personal information through technology has meant that identity theft is no longer just the province of organised criminals and/or terrorists but also now occurs on a smaller, random scale.

In June this year, the federal Attorney-General’s Department released a report based on a randomised survey on identity theft.

Of the survey respondents who had been the subject of identity theft, 57 per cent reported that it had occurred via the internet, 35 per cent as a result of a stolen credit card and 18 per cent by mail theft,” he writes.

He goes on to help readers with a number of ways they may be able to protect themselves, including avoiding public computers; ensuring they have strong passwords which are routinely changed; only providing the minimum amount of personal information that is required during transactions; keeping their mailbox locked; and destroying personal documents.

What is most interesting is his take on why we should be stepping up protection against identity theft:

“South Australia, the Criminal Law Consolidation Act contains a number of sections which deal specifically with identity theft.

It is illegal to assume a false identity for the purposes of committing a criminal offence.

It is also illegal to use someone else’s personal information in order to commit a criminal offence.

Creating false identification material and/or trading in it is also illegal.

There are separate offences relating to the improper use of computers and information obtained via a computer and corresponding federal laws in the Crimes Act.

What the law does not address and what is extremely difficult to redress is the effect on your credit card rating and the unmeasurable cost of replacing stolen material or re-establishing your bona fides.

Once again, the best course of action is protection.”

This difficulty in resurrecting the life you had before, your good name is what we want to warn people about.

Firstly, you may not know you have been caught out until you attempt to take out credit and are refused. Secondly, when you do find out, you may find recovery extremely hard.

As with any other unfair or disputable credit listing, the onus is on the credit file holder to prove that the listing has been placed unlawfully, and therefore should be removed. If you are an identity theft victim, you are now faced with proving that it was not you that initiated the credit in the first place, in order to prove to the Credit Providers that the listing is incorrect. This takes lots of negotiating and documentary evidence.

The difficulty with this can be when

a) you do not know exactly how the identity theft occurred and/or
b) it occurred long before you were made aware of it and you have lost crucial documents or
c) because of either one of these issues you don’t have a Police report

If you have just found out you are a victim (however small), we recommend you also contact the Police immediately. Some fraudsters do test amounts prior to a large scale transaction.

Don’t be embarrassed – it is only through identity theft being reported that data gets collected and appropriate preventative measures eventually get put in place. And besides, most Credit Providers will require at minimum a Police report.

Many identity theft victims seek the help of a third party, such as a credit rating repairer to help with putting a case to the Credit Provider for removing the credit listing/s. A credit repairer can help you to clear your credit file and restore the financial freedom you rightly deserve. The reason a credit repairer is usually so successful in removing your credit file defaults, is their knowledge of legislation and ability to negotiate a successful case on your behalf.

For more information, contact a Credit Repair Advisor at MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs on 1300 667 218 or visit the main website www.mycra.com.au.

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