In the 2014-15 financial year, roughly 126,000 Australians were victims of identity theft, which is a growing threat to our community. Experts are calling it an epidemic, stating that it’s the result of a perfect storm stemming from the wide availability of sharing our personal information online and the growing size of the dark web.
What is identity theft?
The Australian Federal Police states that identity theft is the entire, or partial, assumption of a pre-existing identity, with or without the consent of the victim, who may be alive or deceased.
Once someone gains access to your personal information and assumes your identity, they can apply for financial services, like credit cards or bank accounts, and can run up large debts in your name. This type of fraud can be extremely profitable for offenders, but may cause large financial losses for the Australian Government and victims. It has been estimated that identity crime costs Australia $1.6 billion yearly, $900 million of which is from credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.
How does identity theft occur?
Earlier this year, the Queensland Police published footage gathered from a security camera of a man stealing mail from residents of an apartment complex by using a single key. Certain cheaper locks that are often used for mailboxes, as seen in the video, are keyed with a common master key by default, meaning whoever has this master key can unlock all the mailboxes in the complex. An office manager usually uses these master keys for convenience.
Locks like this are considered to be a low-security option. However, many use them for their economic benefits. The downside of these locks with a common master key is where someone with ill intent uses the master key as the perpetrator in the video did.
It is vital that mailboxes are kept secure with a suitable lock and are regularly cleared to prevent situations like this from happening. Numerous locks are available that offer a higher level of protection and don’t come with a master key, minimising the possibility of someone having access to all the mailboxes. For convenience, some of these locks can even be keyed to work on your front door key as well.
What should you do if you’re a victim of identity theft?
The Australian Federal Police is currently involved in a variety of activities to tackle identity theft and identity crime, and is in collaboration with government departments and private sectors. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft and require more information, visit the Attorney-General’s Department website.
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