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Warning about act fleecing one-in-four Aussies of $300

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
Shocked stressed young woman reading document letter from bank about loan debt financial problem, frustrated worried about bills notification, troubled with bad news or failed test results in mail
Don't fall for this. Image: Getty.

Australians lost a huge $3.1 billion to identity theft in 2019, with the crime affecting as many as one-in-four people, the latest data has revealed.

The average loss from identity theft is $300, but identity theft can also lead to being wrongfully accused of a crime or the refusal of credit or government benefits.

That figure reflects a 17 per cent increase in the cost of identity theft from 2016, Finder said, which carried out the analysis of the Australian Institute of Criminology data.

Additionally, the pandemic has triggered a further rise in identity theft with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reporting a 55 per cent increase in identity theft since the beginning of the pandemic to August last year.

And, in September a Finder survey found 47 per cent of Australians had received a fake call or text since March 2020.

Of those, 69 per cent did not report the crime.

“The quicker you can get on top of a potential ID theft attack, the better your chances are of minimising any damages to your finances,” personal finance specialist at Finder Taylor Blackburn said.

“Unrecognisable transactions, missing or unfamiliar bills in the mail and even a drop in your credit score can all be signals of fraudulent activity.”

Finder noted that scammers are harnessing the fear and anxiety surrounding the pandemic by pretending they are from high-profile government departments like the ATO, or the Department of Health or Services.

Technology is also allowing scammers and fraudsters to spoof the numbers of these departments, adding another level of sophistication to the scams.

Losses can be financially devastating, with one victim losing $62,000 after having their details stolen.

“Always verify the source of any communication that asks you for personal information,” Blackburn said.

“Whether it’s going to the website yourself or calling the business directly, it’s worth confirming that a request is authentic.

“Taking a few extra minutes to check the veracity of a request can save you hours resolving the issue down the track.”

Additionally, avoid clicking suspicious email links, hang up on people who are aggressive or threatening and keep your mailbox secure.

Finder noted that your mailbox is a treasure trove for potential scammers, containing your date of birth, home address and customer IDs.

And check your credit score regularly. This can be one of the first signs someone is pretending to be you.

“Fraudsters can use your personal information to apply for financial products which can damage your credit score and impact your chances of accessing finance down the track. You can check your credit score for free with the Finder app in under five minutes.”

Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance