How identity crime affects individuals

Identity thieves can take your details by:

  • stealing purses, wallets, mail or mobile phones

  • sifting through your household rubbish

  • asking for your tax file number (TFN) as part of a fake job recruitment process

  • reading what you have shared on an online social networking site

  • asking questions while pretending to be from a government department or bank offering to help you complete a tax return or other official document

  • luring you to click on a web link or email that captures your details.

Identity thieves can use your stolen identity to:

  • live in Australia as a citizen

  • access your bank account and shop using your credit card

  • access your myGov account

  • avoid paying tax, child support or Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayments

  • steal your superannuation

  • apply for a government benefit

  • sell your house

  • avoid court appearances or jail

  • make money by selling your details on the black market.

How to protect your identity
  • Know what to protect

  • Be aware of sharing your information

  • Complete our online security questionnaire

  • Store personal information in a secure place

  • Protect yourself from scams

  • Never share your TFN on social media

  • Change any passwords you have shared

  • Protect your computer and phone

  • Ensure your tax agent is registered

1. Know what to protect

Your personal information is the key to your identity. Do you know what you need to protect and how?

Personal information includes your:

  • full name

  • date of birth

  • current address

  • bank account numbers

  • credit card details

  • TFN

  • drivers licence details

  • passport details

  • passwords to online accounts.

2. Be aware of sharing your information

You should only share your personal information with people you trust or organisations with a legitimate need for the information.

Any requests for personal information or copies of your personal information should be treated with caution. Before providing your personal information:

  • ask the person who calls, emails, messages or comes to your door for some identity credentials

  • verify the person’s credentials by calling their organisation or place of work – before you hand over any personal information. If they are legitimate they will wait for you.

3. Complete our online security questionnaire

We take the security and privacy of your personal and taxation information very seriously, with a range of systems and controls in place to ensure that your information and transactions with us are safeguarded.

As a taxpayer, you can also play a big part in protecting your information and making sure it is safe online.

4. Store personal information in a secure place

Avoid carrying documents such as your birth certificate or passport in a wallet or handbag unless you need them. Don't store personal information, such as TFNs, passwords and PINs, in your mobile phone.

Never leave registration papers, expired drivers licences, utility bills or spare house keys in the glove box of your car, even when it is locked. Use a locked mailbox or a post office box if you regularly receive large volumes of mail.

Shred or destroy documents that contain any personal information. Make sure electronic documents containing personal information are secure. You can protect these files with strong passwords, encrypted files or by using a trusted data vault website.

Protect your documents when you are travelling.

Be careful of what you talk about in public – it is possible for identity thieves to get information by listening to your mobile phone calls and your conversations with your friends.

5. Protect yourself from scams

Always ask questions and be suspicious. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Identity thieves can sometimes trick you into providing personal identification details. If you ever have any concerns, ask questions and don’t agree to anything straight away. If you think the offer is legitimate carry out some independent research before committing yourself.

If someone asks you for bank or personal details, money, refunds or free gifts, you should always exercise caution and consider the possibility that it may be a scam, even if you think you know the person well.

Some common tax related scams include:

Online scams

When applying for a job advertised online – you do not need to provide your TFN. You only need to supply your TFN after you have commenced employment. Job ads requiring your TFN up front may be a scam where they steal your personal and financial information. We have seen these types of scams in emails, advertisements on noticeboards, online via social media and on legitimate job recruitment sites.

Phone scams

When someone calls you claiming to be from the ATO and offers you a tax refund – do not provide your financial details or TFN. We have seen instances where identity thieves claiming to be from the ATO, will offer you a refund but you have to pay an upfront fee or donate to a charity first – they often say the payment needs to be done via Western Union through the Australian Post Office. We would never ask you to provide an upfront payment for a refund.

Phishing scams

When you receive an email claiming to be from the ATO – do not click on any links or provide any personal information. We have seen instances where scammers will send out emails claiming to be from the ATO. These emails will offer a tax refund however it will ask you to click on a link to update your information. This will usually take you to a bogus ATO website which can look legitimate. The site will generally ask you to submit a form with personal or banking information. We would never email you requesting personal information for a refund, we will only deal with your personal information electronically via our Portals or myGov.

Door to door scams

When someone knocks on your door offering you gifts or a tax refund in exchange for your TFN and/or personal information – do not provide your details. We are aware of scammers who will knock on your door and offer you free education. If you sign up straight away, they will also give you a free laptop. All you need to do is supply your TFN and other personal identification. You do not need to provide your TFN to an educational institution until you apply for HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP.

6. Never share your TFN on social media

Your TFN is yours for life. Only certain people are entitled to ask for your TFN, including the ATO, other government departments, such as Centrelink, your superannuation fund, bank or financial institution.

Scammers can use the information you make available on social networking sites to steal your identity. Protect yourself by:

  • making sure you know who can see your information and consider setting your profile to ‘private’

  • being cautious about which ‘friend’ requests you accept

  • avoid posting information that would make you or your family vulnerable including photographs, your date of birth, address and information about your daily routine, holiday plans or your children’s school. All of this information could be used to take over your identity or that of your family’s.

7. Change any passwords you have shared

Passwords should be unique to you. The best way to protect yourself is to nevershare them. But if you have shared your passwords, be sure to change and update these regularly.

8. Protect your computer and phone

Protect your computer

Scammers are constantly developing new viruses, malware, programs and ways to steal or access your personal information. To help protect yourself against these digital attacks, you should:

  • keep your security software up to date, including your virus, malware and spyware protection

  • ensure you have a firewall and it is up to date

  • scan your computer’s files regularly

  • avoid entering personal information or passwords into unsecure websites – secure websites start with ‘https’ or have the ‘green closed padlock’ symbol displayed

  • avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in emails from someone you don’t know or trust. Attachments and links can download malicious software onto your computer or can redirect you to a fake site

  • avoid using public computers to access your personal information. Personal information like passwords, financial details and TFNs can be retrieved from a computer’s hard drive. If you do use a public computer, check to see if the service provider has any security settings and always remember to clear the history, cache and close the web browser before you leave the computer

Protect your phone

Stop people from accessing the information on your phone by:

  • using a password, PIN or screen lock

  • only connecting to secure (encrypted) wireless networks from official stores or trusted sources

  • consider installing anti-virus software for your phone

Protect your password

Avoid writing down your passwords and leaving them in open places, in your purse, wallet or in a file on your computer.

9. Ensure your tax agent is registered

You can check if your tax agent is registered on the Tax Practitioners Board website tpb.gov.au/onlineregister

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