Western Australia’s Births Deaths and Marriages just got that little bit harder to swindle with the introduction of tighter identity controls to prevent identity theft and fraud. The changes come into effect next week and will mean anyone who applies for a birth, death or marriage certificate or a name change will have to provide at least three forms of current identification. We look at what these changes will mean in preventing fraud and subsequent bad credit history that shouldn’t be there, and why the positives of increased security outweigh any ‘inconvenience’.

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

Attorney General Michael Mischin told Perth Now yesterday these tighter measures are designed to ensure those who are entitled to access personal information can do so easily, while deterring those who are not.

“In the past few years thousands of West Australians have been affected by identity crime with millions of dollars stolen from innocent people,” Mr Mischin said.

Under WA law people can face up to seven years jail if they produce, use or supply another person’s identification when there is intent to use that information to commit a crime, or facilitate someone else to commit a crime.

The nature of this form of identity crime is pretty complicated, but the payoffs for the criminals would be huge. This type of identity fraud involves the use and misuse of someone’s personal information. Fraudsters may have one piece of the identity puzzle that they may have obtained from somewhere – say a credit application dumped un-shredded in a rubbish bin, personal details from social networking, or perhaps a stolen wallet containing a licence or bank account. What the fraudsters then do is look at piecing together different bits of information – requesting replacement copies of basic identity documents, even changing addresses until they have enough information to commit fraud. The icing on the cake for this type of identity fraud – would be obtaining a replacement copy of an actual birth, death or marriage certificate.

If fraudsters had this type of document, they could easily apply for new credit in their victim’s name – even going so far as to mortgage a property in their victim’s name.

The ramifications of this crime would be absolutely devastating for the victim. They would not only be in debt thousands and thousands of dollars, but also facing a series of defaults against their name which would stop them getting credit in their own right for a very long time (up to 7 years).

Western Australia has not been without its share of well-publicised fraud cases. One such bout late last year involved the mortgaging of properties owned by overseas investors.

In 2010 Wembley Downs retiree Roger Mildenhall had his Karrinyup investment property sold without knowing anything about it. And in 2011 Nigerian-based scammers sold a Ballajura property without the owners’ knowledge.

The previous owners were living and working overseas at the time and didn’t discover the property had been sold until they returned to Perth to inspect the property.

The real estate agent involved has told investigators that he received a phone call from a man claiming to be the owner in February of 2011 inquiring about the property. Shortly after, the agent received an urgent request to sell the property as funds were needed for a business investment, later revealed to be a supposed petro-chemical project –  Landgate announced in a statement in September last year.

Following this, the WA Government was prompted to upgrade its security measures for overseas-based property owners.

“WA property owners living abroad who are concerned about identity theft can now lodge a caveat over their property to reduce the risk of being targeted by scammers, under a raft of anti-fraud measures introduced by Landgate,”Lands Minister Brendon Grylls said at the time.

“They could remove the caveat only by attending Landgate’s Midland office in person and completing a 100-point identity check”, Mr Grylls said.

Under the range of increased security measures, all transfers of land executed overseas now requires a 100-point identity check, signatures to be witnessed by an Australian Consular officer and the sales will need to be independently checked by at least two senior Landgate officers.

The introduction of new security at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Departments seems a no-brainer, and a change which should be going across the board in every Australian State.  A person’s identity and their credit file are the flag for their financial life, and to allow any fraudster opportunity to mess with that through less than bullet-proof security of their personal information is to do them a great disservice.

If you have been a victim of identity theft – whether you have lost money or not – don’t forget three important rules…

1. Tell Police and/or the ACCC. We must report these crimes – however “embarrassing” it may be.

2. Tell your Creditors. Just because nothing has happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Alert them to your identity theft vulnerability before you become a victim and your bank accounts or credit rating suffers.

3. Check your Credit File. Make sure you have not had credit taken out in your name. If you haven’t – warn the credit reporting agencies that you may be vulnerable to identity theft.

If you find defaults on your credit file which should not be there, you may require help to recover your good name. Contact a Credit Repair Advisor on 1300 667 218 to discuss your suitability for credit repair or visit our main site for more information www.mycra.com.au.

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