An Optus hack victim is fighting almost $5,000 worth of fines for offences she did not commit after cruel fraudsters stole her identity to set up a fake Go Get account in her name.
High-profile Australian justice campaigner Janine Hendry was among millions of Australians who had their personal details stolen in the 2022 hack, but had no idea the consequences would be haunting her years later. The Melbourne woman told Yahoo Finance her driver's licence number was used to hire three different cars, which clocked up thousands of dollars worth of parking and speeding tickets in her name.
One $257 fine – including a demerit point – was for doing 49km/h in a 40 zone in Exhibition St, in Melbourne's CBD.
"I’m sure it’s not the worst thing that’s happened, but it's really distressing," Hendry said. "It’s annoying, frustrating and upsetting."
To make matters worse, Hendry, who founded the March4Justice, was oblivious to the tickets until months later as she’d moved house and hadn’t seen the mail, with one Fines Victoria bill for $2726 dealt with – in her absence – by a magistrate who ordered her to pay up.
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Hendry, who was already a Go Get customer, said she’d tried to hire a car through the company mid-last year but was told her account had been suspended which she found "bizarre" as she had no unpaid bills.
The fines – totalling $4709 – had been clocked up after the cars were driven around the Melbourne city centre between March and April last year. But it wasn’t until Hendry finally got hold of her unopened mail in December, the full extent of the nightmare situation became apparent.
"I was a victim of the Optus data breach," the renowned academic and activist told Yahoo Finance. "Basically, my driver’s licence details were compromised and were used to hire cars and I have got thousands and thousands of parking and driving fines."
Hendry said she tried to report the matter to Victoria Police but was told there was nothing they could do and was urged to contact Fines Victoria. Yahoo Finance has reached out to Victoria Police.
"They (Fines Victoria) told me: 'All the fines are in your name, so they are your fines,'" she said.
Despite the fact she knew her personal details including her driver's licence had been part of the Optus data breach, Hendry, who said she was considering joining the Optus class action, said: "It’s all on us, on me. It’s horrendous."
She added she had spoken to the City of Melbourne Council which was assisting her further.
Go Get closes fake account, offers to pay fines
After being contacted by Yahoo Finance on Monday, Go Get confirmed it had closed the fake account and was looking into resolving the issue relating to Hendry's fines.
"Unfortunately, there have been a unique set of circumstances that led to this situation and we are now working with the authorities to get this resolved as quickly as possible," a Go Get spokesperson said.
An Optus spokesperson told Yahoo Finance the telco recognises that when it comes to customer's data "protection is absolutely essential".
"We are committed to continuous improvements to better protect our customers," the spokesperson said. "Our customer care experts will be in touch with the individual to further investigate the circumstances of this incident."
Fraud is usually a civil matter, say cops
On its website, Victoria Police states: "In many cases where a person loses money, it will not be a criminal, but a civil matter. Particularly when a matter involves breaches of contract or non-payment of debts.
"Police cannot investigate civil matters. Police only investigate criminal matters in order to charge offenders and place evidence before a court."
In most cases, victims are urged to speak to a solicitor and if the complaint and evidence suggests a crime may have been committed, the matter "will be referred for investigation".
More information about how to identify and deal with fraud and scams and what to do if you fall victim to one can be found on Victoria Police's website.