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What To Do If You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Having an identity stolen can be incredibly stressful. Thankfully, there are a number of actions you can take to resolve the situation. In this article, we list and explain the steps you can take to start working towards fixing your situation.

12 July 2021Lloyd Smith 4 min read
What To Do If You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen

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Discovering that your identity has been stolen can not only be incredibly confronting but may also leave you feeling helpless. Although it may feel like there’s nothing you can do, there are several steps you can take to help secure your identity and prevent further damage from occurring. If you’re wondering what to do in case of identity theft, make your way through each of the following steps:

The first thing you should do is to report any occurrences of identity theft to your local police. Be sure to request a copy of the police report they create or the number assigned to the report before you head home. It’s important to have either a copy of the report or the report reference number noted down after you visit the police so you can supply it to your bank, government agencies and any other organisations you will end up liaising with.

IDCARE, an organisation established to support those who have had their identity stolen in Australia, is worth contacting if you believe your identity has been stolen. The team can help to provide information relevant to your circumstances and guide you through the process of limiting the damage caused. IDCARE’s services are free and can be very useful if you’re unsure of what to do about identity theft.

Contact your bank and any other financial institutions you have accounts with. Request that any bank or credit cards that have been breached are cancelled. You should also look to have your accounts secured or blocked if required.

If you’ve lost any identity credentials (drivers licence, birth certificate, passport, Medicare card, immigration documentation, etc) or they have been stolen, it’s a good idea to contact the organisations who originally issued them to you. They can assist you in attaining new documents and can inform you, if applicable, of what they can do to cancel or void your previous documents.

If you use internet banking, have an email address or use any other online accounts that may contain private information, such as your social media profiles, you should consider changing your passwords. This may seem like a time-consuming task, but it can help to secure your accounts and your information moving forward.

Creating a strong password can be quite simple to do, with many different strategies out there to help you choose a better option. You might choose to use a password generator, select a combination of random words, or use lyrics or a quote as the base for a more complex password. You should look to avoid using a password that contains sensitive information, such as your date of birth and name, and create a unique password for each account.

If you do use social media, take some time to also check the security of your profiles. Leaving your profile overly accessible to the public could make you more susceptible to identity fraud. Not only should you generally avoid sharing too much personal information, but you should also check that your privacy settings allow only your friends to view the information you list within your profile.

A handy way to find out if your personal information has been used to borrow money is to request a copy of your credit report. There are several credit reporting agencies you can contact, including Equifax, Illion and Experian. By reviewing the applications and credit enquiries recorded within the report, you should be able to spot any inconsistencies or unusual activity. If any recent enquiries have been made, you will be able to contact the financial institution and warn them that you have been a victim of identity theft.

Monitoring your credit score for any sudden changes may also help you discover whether criminals are attempting to use your credit information to access credit cards, loans and other forms of finance.

If your personal information has been compromised, you can reach out to credit reporting agencies and request a temporary ban period. Throughout the 21-day period, the credit reporting agency will be unable to share your information with lenders and other organisations unless you provide express written permission. This should help to prevent criminals from successfully applying for new credit without your knowledge.

In select states, including New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, you may be eligible to apply for a Commonwealth Victim’s Certificate. The certificate can be used to assist in removing fraudulent transactions, rebuilding your credentials and resolving any issues affecting your personal affairs.

If you discover that your Tax Fine Number has been used without your knowledge, alert the Australian Tax Office that it has been compromised.

Keep notes throughout the process

Whether you’re reaching out to government organisations or private businesses, keeping notes of who you contacted and when can make it easier to track where you’re at with each organisation. If you haven’t heard back from an organisation for a considerable amount of time or they’ve failed to action anything as promised, you’ll have records on hand to support your case. If possible, try to collect written records of your communications, such as emails or physical documentation.

Review your bank account and credit card transactions regularly

Even though you may have gone through the process of alerting different organisations, blocking accounts and updating your passwords, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the transactions recorded by your bank account and credit cards over the coming months. New suspicious transactions could appear if you’ve forgotten to cancel cards that you use less often, so it can pay to be vigilant.

Contact Australia Post

Although criminals may access your information digitally through online accounts, some may attempt to collect your information by intercepting your mail. Contact Australia Post to check whether someone has set up a mail redirection service without your knowledge. If your letterbox is unsecured, it may also be a good idea to have a lock installed.

Use strategies to help protect yourself from identity theft in the future

While your personal information may have been stolen on one occasion, there are some strategies you can use to help protect yourself from identity fraud in the future. Getting into the habit of using unique passwords, checking your bank statements for suspicious transactions and being more judicious about where you share your information are all great starting points.

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Written by Lloyd Smith

General Manager AU

Lloyd spreads the word about how awesome ClearScore is.