There is nothing quite as distasteful as having your identity stolen and used against you via the crime of defrauding your person. We live at a time where we celebrate the life of the individual. There may be 8 billion of us living on the planet but we value our own lives greatly just the same. It is a despicable act to steal another person’s reputation and cash in on their credit rating to access money and goods. Identity crimes can be committed against your credit rating at any time – what are we to do about it? There are steps you must take immediately to stop this rot and the damage it can do your life. Cyber crime, as we have recently seen here in Australia, is on the march into our lives and takes no prisoners. Criminals have embraced the digital world as much as the banking and finance industry. Therefore, we have a perfect storm of insecure digital walls, money as figures on a screen, and nefarious intent.
What Is Identity Crime?
The Australian Federal Police define identity crime as involving these key elements:
· Identity referring to natural persons, either dead or alive, and the identity of corporate bodies.
· The fabrication of identity in the creation of a fictitious identity.
· The manipulation of identity when describing the alteration of an identity.
· Identity theft is the stealing or assumption of another’s identity with or without consent in the instance of a deceased person.
· Identity crime is a generic term used to describe any activities involving identity manipulation, fabrication, and/or theft to facilitate a crime.
The Cost To Australia Of Identity Crime
A 2017 report by the Australian Institute of Criminology into Identity Crime in Australia had the annual cost at $3.1 billion. 5 years later and with all that inflation you can speculate that it is much greater today. 1 in 4 Australians reported having been a victim of it at some stage of their lives. 20.4% were refused credit on the basis of identity fraud damaging their credit rating. Identity crime was more prevalent than robbery, car theft, household break-ins, or assault. The digital realm has, obviously, welcomed criminals with open arms, as we have via our lax behaviours around our devices, social media, and the internet.
Check Your Credit File For Identity Fraud
The very first thing to do is to access your credit file to carefully examine what has actually happened. The good news is that it is free to request a copy of your credit file from the credit bureaus every 3 months. There are 3 agencies, so it is best to get a copy from each one in case they have differing information on file.
Experian Ph. 1300 783 684
Illion Ph. 1300 734 806
Equifax Ph. 138 332
Once you have received copies of your credit files check them for all the listings and data in terms of accuracy in regard to your activity. You may wish to engage expert advice to assist you in this analysis of your credit file. Credit reporting law specialist solicitors are available to help you with this task.
Remember that the devil is always in the detail. Timings are important when checking the listings, especially negative listings on your credit file. There are strict laws governing when and how lenders can impose negative listings on your credit file in response to your financial behaviour. Understanding the finer points of law can make a world of difference to your ultimate credit rating. Even if you find no evidence of identity fraud having taken place within your credit file you may find mistakes and errors which can be redressed. It is vitally important to the overall success of your financial life that your credit file dutifully and exactly represents your activities in this sphere.
Indications that you have been the victim of identity crime on your credit file may include unauthorised applications for credit, whether granted or refused. Both are damaging to your financial wellbeing for obvious reasons. It is important that you go over your files with a fine tooth comb. Look for any inconsistencies and things that just don’t add up in terms of your activity over the period concerned. This is not a document to skim but is best handled by a thorough and rigorous reading. Expert advice can pay dividends here when examining your credit report.
Identity Crime & The Broken Mirror
If you neglect to do anything about possible identity fraud and crimes committed against you and your credit rating it can stay on your file for up to 7 years. Talk about breaking mirrors and the consequent bad luck. This will adversely affect you and your ability to access credit for the really important things in your life. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to identity crime and your credit rating. That broken mirror will distort your reflection in the eyes of the financial world. The money men and women will not rate you. Thumbs down in the Colosseum of Getting Ahead.
What To Do When You Find Identity Fraud On Your Credit Report
“My bank must stop trying to sell me identity theft protection. You know why I expect you to protect my money. Because you’re a bank!” – Bill Maher
You may have been a victim of the Optus or Medibank hacks. Your personal data, like driver’s licence or passport number, may have been sold on the dark web. Some “scumbag hacker” (to use the Cyber Security Minister, Clare O’Neil’s terminology) may have stolen your identity and sold it to another scumbag who has used it to rip you off. What to do when you discover the worst has happened. Report the theft of your identity to the local police and to the Australian Cyber Security Centre. You will very likely need new identity documents that haven’t been compromised and these agencies will assist you in directing you how to go about that process. In regard to your credit file you can apply for an immediate ban on all activity in regard to your identity via the credit bureaus. You should immediately contact the lender involved in the fraudulent transaction and report the identity theft and that you did not authorise the transaction. Plus, you can apply for a victim’s certificate from the Commonwealth and some state states and territories acknowledging your status as having been defrauded by identity theft.
Identity Theft Step Check List
1. Regularly check credit file.
2. Report identity fraud to relevant authorities.
3. Change identity documentation.
4. Implement credit ban with each credit reporting agency.
5. Put in place credit alert with the credit reporting bureaus.
The credit reporting agencies are offering an alert service, which informs you when a new application for credit is made to them using your identity. These monitoring and identity protection services are in response to the heightened cyber crime currently underway here in Australia. Equifax charges for theirs, whilst Illion and Experian offer theirs free. The advice from the experts in the financial system is that the most important thing is to frequently and regularly check your credit file for activity, as you cannot have bans in place permanently and these transgressions will not go away. Bad actors may have your identity data for months or years before pulling the trigger and defrauding you. Constant vigilance will have to be the new normal when it comes to the financial world and the credit reporting system. We must all tighten our security around digital devices and the internet. The sad fact is that there are bad people and organised criminal gangs on the look out for any portal into your world. Social media posting of personal information is like putting out the welcome mat for scumbags and criminals to invade your life.
What Can Happen When You Are The Victim Of Identity Fraud
There are some really terrible stories out there about people who have been the victim of identity crime. The lengths some perpetrators will go to in ripping off innocent victims of identity fraud is shocking. The difficulties some victims had in establishing their own identity with relevant authorities because the fraudster had overridden their details with new fake ones was also disturbing. Imagine how it feels to suddenly lose your identity and reputation to some scumbag taking you for an expensive ride to the cleaners. The convenience of the modern era comes with a price and that is the fact that it is easier for cyber criminals to fleece you without meeting you in the flesh. We do so many things online now that we are easy pickings for those with the skills and intent to defraud us. I think back to Charles Dickens and those pickpockets in Oliver under the auspices of Fagan.
“Got to pick-a-pocket or two!”
Well, now they are sitting down in front of a terminal or on their smart phone singing the same tune with new lyrics.
“Yes, I’m gonna defraud you!”
What Can We Do To Prevent Cyber Crime
The big backdoor hacks like the Optus and Medibank ones are grabbing the headlines but most identity crime is committed on smaller scales involving access via loose security at businesses or by the victims themselves in terms of their personal data. One of the big mistakes many people make is going online after a few drinks in a relaxed frame of mind. Posting stuff on social media and communicating with virtual strangers to fill those lonely minutes and hours can be a really dumb move. Many of us have not been properly trained to understand the technology we are using and fail to comprehend the access we are inadvertently granting scumbags pretending to be otherwise. The internet is a fraudulent space because we cannot employ our innate bullshit sensors via body language. We cannot sniff out the lies and manipulations in a realm of bytes and pixels. We must, therefore, be vigilant and make suspicion our default mode when dealing with all communication via the internet. Remember to regularly update your passwords and security protocols. Do not have one universal password for everything, as this is like leaving your front door key under the mat. Protect your personal data like the access to your intimate body. Treat these details in a similar way. We need a cultural shift to enable new taboos to form around our digital identities. Very soon avatars will be representing us in the meta sphere if Mister Zuckerburg has his way and we will begin the next chapter of identification processes in our lives. Brave new worlds beckon us. Unfortunately, it appears as if there will always be villains in the picture no matter how new the story.
Credit Repair Is Possible
Yes, credit repair is still possible, even after identity crimes against your credit file. The restoration of your credit worthiness can be achieved by following the correct steps and procedures. Incorrect and misleading negative listings can be removed from your credit report. Understanding how the system and the law works in regard to credit reporting is essential when dealing with these matters. Experienced lawyers with expertise in The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) can provide the breadth of vision necessary to untangle distortions built by deceit. No Win No Fee can make some things possible where only doubt and misfortune ruled before. It is all about taking back control of your life from those who have taken advantage of you by nefarious means.
Scammers Knocking On Your Cyber Door
We all have to smarten up and question everything when it comes to avoiding falling prey to scams. Learn to look for the URL in every email sent to you – that is the digital address of the sender. Many scams are so basic that the sender purports to be from your bank or phone company but their URL tells you something different. Yes, there are more sophisticated scammers with better camouflage or disguises but train yourself to doubt all forms of digital communication. Do not click on hyperlinks sent to you via SMS or emails – make this your strict policy across the board. Do not answer cold calls from numbers you do not recognise. What is the point, as you are just opening the door to scammers and cyber crime. If something seems too good to be true – it usually is. Do not get sucked into deals of a lifetime because they are highly likely to be bogus and scams to get your money. Remember that smart criminals play the long game to get under your skin prior to fleecing you of your money or identity. Your new best friend online may not be who you think he or she is. New people who come into your life promising true love wouldn’t ask you for money or favours if they were genuine. Would you in their shoes? Come on think about this stuff! Identity crimes committed against your credit rating can be repaired and better still they can be avoided by being more vigilant. The world wide web has made the planet a smaller place, where more things can reach you, both good and bad. It is time to get savvy when it comes to digital devices and your privacy.
In the words of the great Elvis Presley:
“Suspicious minds…We’re caught in a trap…Why can’t you see… And we can’t build our dreams…When honey, you know I’ve never lied to you. Mmm, yeah, yeah.”
Hell, this thing could have been written about internet scammers and identity theft.
Australian Federal Police, Identity Crime, https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/crime-types/fraud/identity-crime Viewed 21st November 2022.
Credit Smart, Protecting your credit identity is critical to maintaining your credit health, Viewed 21st November 2022.
Greene Andrew, New task force to target ‘scumbag’ hackers following Medibank and Optus cyber attacks, ABC News, 12th November 2022, Viewed 22nd November 2022.
Jorna P & Smith R 2018. Identity crime and misuse in Australia 2017. Statistical Report no. 10. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/sr/sr10 Viewed 22nd November 2022.
Money Smart, Identity theft, https://moneysmart.gov.au/banking/identity-theft Viewed 21st November 2022.
We are grateful for the authorisation by Sydney based Credit Repair Lawyer to republish their recent article in full. Joseph Trimarchi and Associates are an accomplished Law Firm that specialise in Australian Credit Reporting Law and Credit Repair. They pride themselves in providing their clients with solutions aimed at restoring their Credit History by rebuilding Credit Worthiness. For more information on credit repair Sydney residents have been helped by, visit the website here: https://creditrepairlawyer.com.au