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Tuesday, 23 July 2019 10:36

Identity theft has cost Australians $16 million in 2019: report Featured

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Scammers have stolen at least $16 million from unsuspecting Australians so far this year and this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, according to the latest Scamwatch report from the ACCC.

The scams involve identity theft including personal banking information with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warning that scammers can empty victims’ bank accounts, take out tens of thousands of dollars in bank loans under victims’ names, and purchase expensive furniture or electronics under ‘no-repayments for 12 months’ schemes.

“If you think scammers might have gained access to your personal information, even in a scam completely unrelated to your finances, immediately contact your bank,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“Timeliness in alerting your financial institution is absolutely crucial, and will give you the best possible chance at recovering your funds.”

Rickard says some of the ways scammers obtain personal or banking information are:

  • phishing emails and text messages which impersonate banks or utility providers seeking your login details;
  • fake online quizzes and surveys;
  • fake job advertisements;
  • remote access scams in which the scammer has direct access to everything on your computer;
  • sourcing information about you from social media platforms; and
  • direct requests for scans of your driver’s license or passport, often in the course of a dating and romance scam.

“No one is really selling an iPhone for $1, or rewarding the completion of a survey with expensive electronic goods or large gift vouchers. They’re scams to get your valuable personal information,” Rickard warned.

“The identity thieves can make victims’ lives a nightmare. They’ll change the victims’ phone carrier so they lose service and set up mail redirections so they’re in the dark about what’s going on.”

Rickard said lost personal information also leaves victims more susceptible to future scams, and scammers will use the victim’s personal information to seem more convincing in cold calls.

“The trick is to be alert to the signs. If your mobile phone suddenly loses coverage, you haven’t received expected electronic or physical mail, or you receive unexpected notifications from a financial institution, call your bank.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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