Cybercrime is becoming one of the world’s fastest growing ‘black’ economies, with data breaches expected to cost more than $2 trillion globally by 2019. Large corporates and small businesses aren’t the only ones at risk, with private individuals climbing to the top of the hit list.
There has been an 18% increase in identity theft over recent times with people over 55 being most at risk. Identity crime costs Australian consumers and businesses more than $1.6 billion a year according the federal government.
While this is a huge financial burden on the overall economy, the impact on victims can be disastrous. With your personal information, the reach of what criminals can do is wide. They can apply for credit cards and loans, racking up debts in your name, and even apply for passports and a driver’s license, allowing them to potentially create even more havoc.
Often it will take you months to prove that you are who you are, to regain control of your name and identity and prove you did not apply for credit cards, mobile phones or a new licence.
Michael Schaper from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said there were a few reasons why the over 55’s are a target. These include:
- More likely to have a substantial financial nest egg
- A good credit rating
- Raised to be polite and trust established authority
- Reluctant to report a scam, as it’s shameful for them; they don’t want others to think they are gullible
- Don’t have confidence using online tools such as email
He went on to say that many of the common identity scams come from ‘trusted’ sources such as the Australian Tax Office (ATO), Telstra and even the courts. The legitimate-looking emails ask users to click a link and when they do, provide their personal details. The content is designed to prey on their fears to obtain the information the scammers are after.
While we can’t control the criminals there are several actions we can take to protect ourselves and they are outlined below.
- Delete suspicious text messages or emails. Don’t click on any links they contain.
- If a call sounds suspicious, hang up and call the organisation back. Don’t provide details over the phone or reply to text messages.
- Never send money to someone you have just met.
- Don’t provide details of your credit card or bank accounts via email or online to anyone you don’t know
- Ensure your computer is up to date with the latest anti-virus software and firewall
- Keep personal details safe from public social media sites, including your date of birth. If you have to provide sensitive, personal information ensure your privacy protection is at the highest level
- Lock your letterbox or get a PO box
- Shred documents with personal information eg: name, address, account or membership numbers
- Sign up for the alert service from the federal government – Stay Smart Online – you will receive updates of online threats and how to manage them.
While you can’t control criminal activity, you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Your identity depends on it.