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Your identity is the key to your personal freedom. Driving a car, enjoying an overseas holiday and applying for a loan all depend on you being able to prove that you are 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 convincing organisations such as debt collectors that you’re a victim of identity theft. For some victims, this can persist for years.

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 Australian Institute of Criminology, one in four Australians have experienced identity theft.

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

Keep social media 'social'

Check 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. Keeping the personal information you provide on social media private, ensures that your privacy stays in tact when being 'social' online.

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 threats and scams

Sign up to the Government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre alert service – this free service delivers news and advice about the latest scams straight to your inbox.

Follow Australian government website Scamwatch 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:

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). You can learn more about VPNs from the Australian Cyber Security Centre

Check your credit rating

Order a free copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency to check your credit history. This will highlight any suspicious activity that might be linked to your identity. Check it annually and if you have suspicions that your identity has been stolen, a quick way to alleviate those fears is to order your credit history from a credit reporting agency.

Always check financial statements

Regularly review 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, this needs to be investigated further. 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.

Sign up for data breach monitoring

You can sign up to the ‘Have I Been Pwned’ website run by security researcher Troy Hunt to be notified if your email address (and other information) has been exposed in a data breach. This information can help you be aware of where and how your information is being used. You can also test how common passwords are, and see how many times they have previously been exposed in data breaches.

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

Phone 13 14 44 to report your stolen identity to your state 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.

Contact the Australian Cyber Security Centre / ReportCyber

ReportCyber 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. ReportCyber isn’t an investigative service, but a referral and reporting service. If ReportCyber don’t investigate the matter but further action is necessary, they will arrange for the relevant law enforcement agency to contact you.

Contact any organisation that may be affected

Contact the issuing organisation that has provided you an identity document or card if it’s been compromised.

If you have unknown activity on your bank account, or you have debt collectors chasing you for money that you have 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.

Take action on all your accounts

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

Contact IDCARE for expert advice

IDcare is a free victim support service that can help advise you on how to recover your identity. Phone their helpline on 1800 595 160. 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.

Encrypting sensitive information

How to protect your sensitive personal and business information with data encryption.

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.