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Your identity is the gateway to freedom. Driving a car, enjoying a holiday overseas and applying for a loan depend on you being able to prove that you’re who you say you are.

If someone has a copy of your driver’s license, passport or other personal identification documents, you may have a hard time, for a long time, convincing organisations such as debt collectors that you’re a victim of identity theft.

Your imposter could apply for credit, spend up big and never make a repayment on the loan you’ve taken out (without your knowledge). In extreme circumstances, they could commit a major crime, using your name. It’s important to keep your identity protected with a few basic actions.

Make your identity invisible to cyber criminals

According to the Attorney-General’s office, five per cent of Australians lose money because of identity crime.

Here are some ways to reduce the risk of your identity being stolen online.

Keep social media 'social'

Social media is for communication. Use it that way. You wouldn’t shout out your date of birth or address when you’re out socialising at an event. Visit the security and privacy settings of your social media accounts and ensure the only people that can see you are those you know and trust.

Read How to use social media securely to find out more.

Protect your computer and internet devices

Install security software including virus, malware and spyware protection. To find out more, check out:

And always use strong passwords.

Stay informed about online scams

Sign up to the Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online Alert service – this free service delivers news and advice about the latest scams straight to your email inbox.

Follow Australian government website Scam Watch to stay up to date on the latest scam alerts so you know what to look out for.

Never click a link on a suspicious email or text message

Report it, then delete it. To find out more, check out:

Does the website address start with 'https'?

If you’re about to enter any personal details on a website, check the website address starts with https. S indicates a secure protocol is in place to help protect you.

Only use secure WiFi networks

If a free public WiFi network isn’t secured, it may be a prime target for cyber criminals. Free doesn’t mean secure. Avoid using public WiFi networks unless you are using a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

Check your credit rating

Order a free copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency to check your credit history. Check it annually and if you believe your identity has been stolen, order a credit rating immediately.

Always check financial statements

Scan your banking and financial statements to check for any unusual activity. Call your bank or financial institution immediately if you suspect someone is accessing your money fraudulently. Always keep your bank or financial institution up to date on your contact details, so you can be contacted quickly if any unusual activity is detected on your account.

Unsolicited mail or phone calls may be an alert

If you suddenly begin to receive unsolicited (physical) mail or parcels that you have no knowledge of, you need to investigate. If debt collectors start contacting you about recovering money you’ve never borrowed, take action immediately.

Take care of documents that may contain your personal information

If you stop receiving expected communications, it could mean it’s being stolen from your letterbox. If you can secure your letterbox, do so, and if you suspect your mail is being stolen report it to the police immediately. It’s best to shred or destroy any documents if you are throwing them out – even place them in separate bins so if someone gets hold of them, they won’t have your full details.

How to get your stolen identity back

From the moment you believe your identity has been used fraudulently, you need to take these steps.

Report the identity theft to the police

Phone 13 14 44 to report your stolen identity to the police. Make sure you get a copy of the police report, or a reference number to quote to other businesses or agencies that you may need to discuss your stolen identity with.

Take action on all your accounts

Immediately change all passwords on your accounts and close down any accounts that you’ve no knowledge of having set up. Choose strong passwords.

Contact the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN)

ACORN is a secure reporting and referral service for cyber crime. You can report identity theft by completing an online form – Report a Cybercrime. Once submitted, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a reference number. ACORN isn’t an investigative service, but a referral and reporting service. If ACORN don’t investigate but further action is necessary, they will arrange for the relevant law enforcement agency to contact you.

Contact any organisation that may be affected

If you’ve unknown activity on your bank account, or you have debt collectors chasing you for money that you’ve no knowledge of owing, make sure you contact everyone involved to put a stop to further damage and provide them with reference numbers for the investigation (either from ACORN or the Police).

Contact the iDcare victim support centre

iDcare is a free victim support service that can help advise you on how to recover your identity. Phone their helpline on 1300 432 273. You can visit the iDcare website to find out more.

The Attorney-General’s Department also provides helpful advice on their Protecting your identity website page.

Helpful resources

How to use social media securely

Social media can provide others with access to your personal world. Make sure you're only sharing what you want to share.

How to keep your family safe online

The internet is full of information, but it can also be dangerous. Learn how to keep your family safe online.

Handy tips for secure online shopping and banking

Stay in control of who accesses your information when browsing online with these simple tips.

How to identify spam and phishing messages

Be on the lookout for suspicious messages and avoid being a target of cyber-criminals.

Cyber Safety

Stay informed

Report a suspicious NAB message