If you didn’t have Facebook or Twitter – you’d be lost right? It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends– and sometimes it’s more convenient and quicker than a phone call. But if you don’t keep your personal information secure from outsiders while you use it– you could be keeping in touch with all the wrong people. There’s weirdos out there trolling the internet looking for the stuff you openly post – even people looking to commit identity theft with your info. We show you how the mistakes you make with your privacy now could lead to being unable to get a phone, a home, a car in the future because of a surprise bad credit rating.

This information was put together for Privacy Awareness Week 29 April to 5 May 2012 and is all about promoting awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities in the community. The theme this year is “How to Protect Personal Information While Engaging With Social Media”  with a focus on secondary school students, parents and teachers. If you are not a student but you know one, flick them this link or print this page. We want all young Australians to have the luxury of a clear credit rating when they turn 18 and beyond.

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

1. Fraudsters are looking for your personal information.

They are looking to take it and use it for purposes of constructing a fake identity. Identity theft victims are not always ‘gullible’ as people might imagine. They are ordinary people. Many experts say it is not a matter of if you experience an identity theft attempt, but when. It is estimated one in six Australians may have been a victim or know someone who is a victim of identity theft.

It can happen to you when someone you know obtains identity documents or credit card details to impersonate you. Or more and more 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 at risk of identity crime than ever.  This means identity crime can have very long arms – often it originates from overseas crime syndicates.  Identity theft is increasing because the pay-offs are huge for criminals. It is estimated identity crime costs Australians $1 billion a year.

2. Criminals are after information they can use to steal your identity.

Criminals are looking for anything they can use to piece together enough information in order to construct a fake identity. Much of the information people post on Facebook or other Social Networking sites can be very good building blocks for identity thieves. They are taking snippets here and there and building a profile on people. They may know your name and they may also know where you live, or where you go to school, your pet’s names, your birthday, even your other family name which could be identified as your mother’s maiden name.

All this is very handy information that is not only used to identify you, but may be used in passwords. After a little while, they have enough information to go about asking for replacement copies of driver’s licences, photo identification – whatever type of identification they have suitable information for. Then they can attempt to take out credit in your name. Some people have even had houses purchased in their names. Often it’s not until you go and take out credit and the bank says: “NO WAY look at all these defaults against your name!” that you may realise you have been struck by identity theft. The thing is, they are using your name so you are the one that ends up with the bad credit rating, and it can be a nightmare to recover the good credit rating you once had.

3. These Privacy risks apply even if you’re under 18

You might ask – what’s the point of worrying about privacy if you are underage – without a credit rating – there is no danger of identity theft right? Well think again! The fact is – crooks are pretty clever. The information you post today, could come back to haunt you in a big way. There are reports of crooks scanning social networking sites purposely looking for young people for this reason, because they usually have the most open privacy settings. That information is not used right away, but is ‘warehoused’ until the young people turn 18. They can then go on a ‘spending spree’ with the young person’s fake identity and credit. Imagine that, you turn up to buy your first car, and lo and behold you have a mountain of defaults against your name and no idea how it happened.

Besides all this, if you have enough information on your Social Networking right now about your parents you could be putting their credit rating in jeopardy as well.

4. The effects of a bad credit rating from identity theft

Negative listings stay on a person’s credit file for 5 to 7 years, depending on the listing. During the time your credit file is affected most lenders and other credit facilities will refuse you credit. Unless you are able to prove it wasn’t you who took out the credit, you may be stuck with a bad credit rating until you are at least 23 if not 25. You can’t borrow to travel, purchase a home, or even take out a credit card or a mobile phone plan while you credit file has these defaults.

5. What you should do to make sure fraudsters don’t obtain your personal information

One important change you can make right now, is to change the way you use the internet. Keep your passwords and social networking settings as strong as possible.

Here is some information that Stay Smart Online has provided to help young people in Australia today take steps to use social networking safely:

• set your online profile to private and be discerning about who you accept as your ‘friend’
• protect your accounts with strong passwords
• have a different password for each social networking site so that if one password is stolen, not all of your accounts will be at risk
• think before you post – expect that people other than your friends can see the information you post online
• don’t post information that would make you or your family vulnerable – such as your date of birth, address, information about your daily routine, holiday plans, or your children’s schools
• don’t post photos of you or your family and friends that may be inappropriate – or that your family and friends haven’t agreed to being posted
• never click on suspicious links – even if they are from your friends – they may have inadvertently sent them to you
• be wary of strangers – people are not always who they say they are. It’s a good idea to limit the number of people you accept as friends
• always type your social networking website address into your browser or use a bookmark.
• If you suspect any fraudulent use of your identity you should report it to your social networking service provider and your local police.

MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs is proud to be a Partner for Privacy Awareness Week 2012. For more youth resources visit the PAW Website http://www.privacyawarenessweek.org/youth.html.


Image of boy: David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net