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Identity theft has become one of the most widespread crimes in the country, generating significant profits for offenders. In fact, government data indicates that it costs Australians $1.6 billion annually. From individuals to private industries, no one is safe from this type of criminal activity. If you want to learn how to prevent identity theft, we can tell you everything you need to know.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the fraudulent practice of using illegally obtained personal information for monetary gain. With over 700,000 identities stolen in Australia in 2015, this poses a serious threat to the community. According to statistics obtained from credit bureau Veda, the average victim of identity theft loses $4,000.

There are several types of identity theft. The most common include:

  • Credit card/financial theft: Thieves can empty your bank account before you even realise your details have been stolen. From incurring significant overdraft fees to damaging your credit rating, this form of identity theft can have serious consequences for both victims and financial institutions.
  • Data theft: Now that so much of our private information can be accessed digitally, data theft has become a huge problem for businesses and individuals. From contact information to credit card numbers, essentially anything stored on an electronic device can be accessed through data theft.
  • Medical identity theft: Instead of stealing cash, medical identity theft involves the improper use of health insurance. Apart from costing health insurance providers millions of dollars, this practice is also highly dangerous, as it can fill your medical history with misleading information.
  • Criminal identity theft: Once a thief has stolen your identity, they can commit crimes without being detected, simply by using your name. It makes them much harder to catch, and can lead to false accusations being made against innocent people.

Realising just how many different types of identity theft there are can be daunting. But rather than allowing this information to scare you, use this knowledge to your advantage. The more you know about identity theft, the better you can defend yourself.

How to prevent identity theft

Preventing identity theft is getting more difficult. Even with increased security measures, thieves are constantly finding new ways to steal personal information. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The most important thing is to ensure all your bases are covered. From paper documents to computers, take anything that could put your privacy at risk into consideration.

Rather than allowing your personal information to fall into the wrong hands, having it securely destroyed is one of the easiest ways to safeguard yourself against identity theft. If you’re not ready to dispose of your materials, the following steps can also help secure your private information:

  • Never dispose of private materials in general waste streams.
  • Never pass old devices on to another person without first using a degaussing service (this process permanently deletes data).
  • Change your passwords regularly (try to use something that isn’t easy to guess, with a different password for each account).
  • Check your bank statements.
  • Be wary of scams.
  • Install anti-virus software on your computer.
  • Never enter your credit card details into a dubious website.
  • Check the privacy settings on your social networking sites.

What to do if you suspect identity theft

Even if you’re careful to safeguard your private information, many data protection policies aren’t foolproof. If you think your privacy may have been compromised, try not to panic.

To secure your credit cards, always contact your bank first. They’ll be able to check your accounts for any unusual activity.

You should also change all your passwords and ensure your computer’s anti-virus software is up to date. If any of your clients or employees have been impacted, notify them of the breach immediately.

To avoid having to go through this process in the first place, Shred-X’s secure destruction services can help. For more information on how we can protect you from identity theft, get in touch today.