SO you think you’re safe online and take all the necessary steps to protect your information? Think again — your details may not be as private as you think.
More Australians than ever are falling victim to identity crime and the victims aren’t signing up to dodgy scams and being careless either.
They’re using internet banking, shopping online and sending email, actions that millions of Australians do each day without a second thought.
A startling new survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows 1 in 5 Australians have had their personal information misused and 10 per cent have experienced in the past year.
That’s higher than similar research in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The amounts lost ranged from a few dollars to a staggering $310,000. The first indication anything was wrong usually was when they received their bank account statement.
Dr Clare Sullivan, an identity crime expert and law lecturer at the University of South Australia, said the survey showed that no system was “impenetrable”, even banking systems.
“I can tell you I don’t use online banking. I don’t think it’s secure,’’ Dr Sullivan told news.com.au.
She expected there would be more public attention on that issue if banks didn’t bail out people who lost money through fraud that wasn’t directly their fault.
Internet banking was cost effective for the banks and popular with consumers — because it was convenient — but Dr Sullivan said no system “anywhere in the world” was fail safe.
“I don’t think they can be, [the security] is not sufficient.”
Online shopping was another area that has become part of everyone’s daily life. But it is as vulnerable, if not more so, as having your wallet snatched from trolley at your local store.
The problem is the level of detail many people provide, much of it unnecessary.
“One of the things in this survey is [the victims] are saying they are less trusting and more careful. That’s the lesson learned.’’
When buying something online, it was important to ask why all the information you were being prompted for was necessary, she said.
Fraud from using an ATM or Eftpos transaction also featured and has been a popular way for international gangs to rip unsuspecting people off.
It was one of a number of areas that people could be lulled into a false sense of security even when there are disclaimers, the assurances of top security and promises your information won’t be on sold.
And then there was social media.
“People put everything out there on social media. All you need [to steal someone’s identity] is their full name, their date of birth, sometimes their place of birth and an account number.
“With that information all over the internet then its is very easy to piece together.”
The report also revealed which Australians could be at most risk. Affluent, English speaking people outside of capital cities were significantly more likely to be a victim of cyber-crime than anyone else.
She believed that was an indication they were more reliant on online shoppers than perhaps city based.
”You’re a lot more vulnerable if you can’t just walk down the road.”
Dr Sullivan said people got upset about the loss of money, but that usually temporary, and was actually the least of their worries.
“It’s the loss of identity. Once that has been compromised it’s compromised forever. People don’t realise how important that is and it could come up in six months or a year’s time or five years’ time.’’
For her there was “no question” the problem would get worse as more of our daily lives were spent online.
AIC principal criminologist Dr Russell Smith told news.com.au it was significant the number of Australians reporting misuse was higher than similar international surveys.
“It needs exploring ... But it could well mean the percentage of people suffering identity crime is higher in Australia.”
Something the research did show was the growing concern of Australians who worried their personal information being misused.
The survey was commissioned by the Federal Government to determine the extent of identity crime in Australia.
Dr Smith noted “ordinary transactions” were being used by cyber criminals but said more traditional ways of deceiving were still in use.
“Identity crime has been around for a long time. There are the tried and true methods of stealing information, like from a tombstone or taking letters out of mailboxes. So the old ways still exist.”
*Secure your mailbox with a lock and make sure mail is cleared regularly
Shred or destroy your personal and financial papers before you throw them away, or keep them in a secure place if you wish to retain them
Always cover the keypad at ATMs or on EFTPOS terminals when entering your PIN, and be aware of your surroundings — is anyone trying to observe or watch you, are there any strange or loose fixtures attached to the machine or terminal?
Ensure that the virus and security software on your computers and mobile devices is up-to-date and current
Don’t use public computers (for instance, at an internet cafe), or unsecured wireless ‘hot spots’, to do your internet banking or payments
Only use trusted online payment websites for items won at online auctions or purchased online. Never make payments outside of trusted systems — particularly for goods which you have not yet received
If responding to an online employment or rental advertisement, be wary of transmitting personal information and copies of documents via email or electronically
Take extreme care if placing personal details such as date of birth, address, phone contacts or educational details on your profile, and do not accept unsolicited ‘friend’ requests