SAFETY of personal information needs to be taken more seriously in this country, to avoid Australian identity theft statistics rising to the percentages of those in the UNITED STATES, GRAHAM DOESSEL CEO of credit rating repair company MY CRA warns.
“Identity theft is the curse of the 21st Century and that is becoming more evident in our industry of credit rating repair. There are more and more people needing help with repairing their credit file due to having their identity misrepresented in some way.”
“With exposure of our personal information greater than ever before, opportunities for fraud are higher than ever” he says.
This follows a recent investigation into VODAFONE for allegations of possible breaches of privacy by having customer information available on a publically accessible internet site.
This investigation conducted by the Privacy Commissioner found the allegations were unsubstantiated, but his report, released 16 February did illustrate other areas of concern at VODAFONE in relation to privacy.
“Vodafone did not have appropriate security measures in place to protect customer’s personal information at the time. Consequently Vodafone was in breach of their obligations under the Privacy Act. I was particularly concerned by Vodafone’s use of shared logins and passwords for staff and the broad range of detailed personal information available to them.” Privacy Commissioner TIMOTHY PILGRIM says.
Vodafone agreed to review its IT security, and all appropriate staff including employees in retail stores and dealerships will be issued with individual login IDs and passwords.
Mr Pilgrim said that this case should serve as a reminder to all businesses using customer management systems to ensure that they have robust privacy protections built in.
The latest AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS data from a Personal Fraud Survey conducted in 2007 shows over 800,000 Australians were victims of at least one incident of personal fraud in the 12 months prior to interview, with over half of these victims incurring a financial loss.
Research in 2009 conducted by Galaxy Research for VEDA ADVANTAGE showed 4.4 million Australians were affected in some way by identity theft, compared to 3.8 million in the previous year.
The AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION now sites identity theft as the “fastest growing crime in AUSTRALIA.”
The A.C.C. says compromised financial information can be used directly to attempt to access someone’s accounts, or be used to obtain credit cards, loans or any other credit in the victims’ name.
Fraudsters have even been known to send SMS and emails from a compromised identity to victims’ friends and associates, asking for money on the victims’ behalf. This often involves a story in regards to the victim being stranded somewhere and requiring the funds urgently.
Current U.S. statistics point to 8.1 million people being victimized in 2010, according to a report by JAVELIN STRATEGY AND RESEARCH. Although that’s still a huge number, it’s 3 million fewer victims than in 2009.
So why have the U.S. statistics begun to improve? JAVELIN sites the top reason for the decrease is due to a significant drop in data breaches, or situations in which batches of personal information have become vulnerable to identity thieves.
The number of breaches last year was down by almost one-third, to 407 incidents, or 26 million records exposed, according to the DataLossDB project. Again, still a huge number, but down – from 604 breaches, or 221 million records exposed, in 2009.
“We definitely see evidence that the banks and other institutions are taking stronger precautions to prevent data breaches. Data breaches are a big deal. You are eight times more likely to be a victim of fraud if you get a data-breach notice.” James Van Dyke, president and founder of Javelin says.
He also sites consumer-education efforts as possibly another factor.
Mr DOESSEL says this demonstrates the importance of vigilance in the war against identity theft.
“It is so important for Australians to educate themselves on how to keep their information secure, and to demand that any information they are required to give over to any person or company be treated with the utmost privacy” Mr DOESSEL says.
“Our message at MyCRA to someone who has found themselves a victim of identity theft is two-fold. Firstly don’t be embarrassed to report it to police – it is only through identity theft being reported that data gets collected and appropriate preventative measures eventually get put in place.”
“Secondly don’t put up with the damage it causes to your credit file and to your life, get in touch with a reputable credit rating repairer who can help you to clear your credit file and restore the financial freedom you rightly deserve” he says.
Visit www.mycra.com.au for more information on identity theft.
PRIVACY COMMISSIONER’S STATEMENT:
AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS:
A.C.C. IDENTITY CRIME STATEMENT: