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A news story from the ABC in September highlights an alarming new trend. Identity theft has evolved and poses a serious threat to anyone with personal identification stored digitally.

What were the costs of identity theft?

In this example, scammers used the person’s pre-existing account with a telecommunications brand to order an Apple Watch with an expensive data plan – amounting to over $1,000 in value.

While this might not be the biggest haul in the history of identity theft, it’s the simplicity of how this data was stolen that is the real concern.

How was their identity stolen?

personal information on social media | Shred-X

All the scammers needed to do was offer enough information to convince a phone operator it was the victim calling. It’s believed that all they needed was the person’s name, driver’s licence number and date of birth.

How would they get that information?

Most of us would admit that our names and dates of birth are easy to uncover. More often than not, Facebook users have both displayed publicly.

But we’d also think that our driver’s licence is safely contained in our purse or wallet, away from the prying eyes of digital identity thieves. But sadly, it’s not that safe.

If you apply for a job, a loan, a bank account or rental property, you’re asked for a copy of your driver’s licence. At that moment it’s not only stored on your computer; it’s stored on theirs.

How easy could it be to steal someone’s information?

All a scammer needs is an old computer or old hard drive. If a company took a photo of your licence and didn’t have their hard drive destroyed, that information could be recovered.

And naturally, along with the driver’s licence number comes your name, your date of birth, and your address. Everything a scammer could ever need in one picture.

What could have happened with the stolen information?

costs of identity theft | Shred-X

It’s scary to think how much worse this case could have been. The author for the ABC noted that this is one serious flaw in Australia’s easy finance systems – they will hand money out using very minimal (and insecure) information.

But if they’d opted for an online personal loan instead of an Apple Watch, there’s almost nothing that could have been done to prevent it. Money would have been in the scammer’s account within an hour, and thousands of dollars in loans accrued to the victim.

Some banks and institutions will help you recover your losses, whereas some won’t. You don’t want to find out the hard way that yours is a financial institution that won’t help.

How can you protect yourself against identity theft?

Protecting yourself against identity theft can be difficult, but there are a few simple steps you can take to make it tougher for scammers:

  • Lock your letterbox – One option for scammers would be to steal the driver’s licence renewal documents (or your new licence) from your mail. A lockable letterbox can prevent this.
  • Be careful online – It’s not a good practice to use your full name and date of birth on social media. This is one of the simplest ways that people can steal your personal information.
  • Destroy your digital tracks – If someone does need your licence online, make sure the data is not left unsecure. Keep your computer locked with security software, and the day it’s no longer needed, have the hard drive wiped completely.

If you need any hard drive, computer or digital media destroyed beyond any chance of recovery, chat to the team at Shred-X. With NAID AAA Certification, GPS-tracked removal trucks and onsite destruction available, we can ensure your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Read more online about our hard drive destruction services.