One in four Aussies have fallen victim to identity fraud, with the misuse of their personal information costing them $300 on average.
Victims also spend $80 and 34 hours dealing with the fallout of the fraud, research from comparison website Finder found.
The types of personal information most at risk include someone’s name, credit card details, bank account information, address and date of birth.
But hackers are leaning on artificial intelligence more than ever to scam information, said Taylor Blackburn, personal finance specialist at Finder, with a common phone changeover an easy hack used by criminals.
“Many ID theft incidents start with a hacker taking control of your phone — as this can allow them to change the passwords on bank websites,” he warned.
“If you ever receive a text message saying that your number is being ported to another network, it is important to contact your telco immediately.”
The cost of identity crime in Australia reached a staggering $3.1 billion in 2019 according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, a substantial 17 per cent increase from 2016.
But beyond the financial consequences, having your identity stolen can lead to refusal of credit or government benefits — and shockingly being wrongfully accused of a crime.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further fuelled the growth in identity crime.
In August. the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission reported identity theft was up 55 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic.
Nearly half of Australians have received a fraudulent call or text message since the beginning of the pandemic, Finder found, but 69 per cent of those people did not report the crime.
One person lost $62,000 after having their details stolen by someone pretending to be from a high-profile government department, revealed Finder.
If you’ve been a victim of identity crime, your first port of call should be to file a police report, advised Mr Blackburn.
“Reporting the incident can help to minimise further losses,” he said. “You should also alert your bank and place a temporary ban on your credit report with all three Australian credit agencies — this will help to avoid any damage to your credit rating.”
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Online shopping, digital banking and cashless payments are increasing the opportunities for identity theft, particularly as 81% of Australians now shop online and a third have their bank details connected to their phone or smartwatch, found Finder.
According to ABS data, of those who had experienced identity theft, one quarter had their details stolen over the internet, including through email or through social media.
“While social media can be a great way to connect with friends and family, avoid sharing anything that gives away your address or other personal details,” Mr Blackburn said.
“Never enter your details into a website you’re unfamiliar with. When shopping online, your safest bet is to stick with well-known companies that you trust.”
The Australian Cyber Security Centre also recommends avoiding public wi-fi networks and being wary of phone calls asking for sensitive information.