Protect yourself from ID fraud

Nearly half a million Australians were victims of identity fraud last year.
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04.Credit cards and spam

Threat 7: Credit card skimming

Staff at some retailers, restaurants and petrol stations may use small devices to illegally copy information from a card’s magnetic strip. This information can be transferred to a blank card and taken on a spending spree.

What to do

  • Don’t let your card out of your sight.
  • Make sure it’s not scanned twice, or by a suspicious looking terminal.
  • Go through your statements with a fine-toothed comb, and report strange transactions immediately; if you weren’t at fault, the financial institution should reimburse you after it investigates.

Threat 8: Your mail and waste

Fraudsters pay people to go through bins looking for letters, bills, pre-approved credit card offers and bank statements. Cheques and credit cards are often stolen from letterboxes too. Mail theft is still a very prevalent way to steal identities, according to the Australian Federal Police.

What to do

  • Get a lock for your letterbox, and use it.
  • A good personal paper shredder costs $50–$150; a pair of scissors costs less.

Threat 9: Spam

Only one in 28 emails is legitimate, according to IT security company Sophos. The rest are spam, and may include dangerous code, links and attachments. Once installed, this code could steal details or even turn your computer into a ‘bot’ that attacks other computers, passing the stolen details to the original fraudster.

“Email spam is almost always sent from innocent third-party computers which have been hijacked by hackers,” says Sophos. “These botnet computers are owned by innocent parties, who are unaware that cybercriminals are using them for financial gain. Typically they are home users who haven’t been properly protected with up-to-date anti-virus software, firewalls and security patches.”

What to do

  • Install spam filtering software.
  • Don’t open attachments or click on links unless you know and trust the source of the email. Attachments with the following file extensions should set alarm bells ringing: .exe, .com, .pif, .scr, .vbs, .js, .ocx, .shs, .reg and .bat.

Threat 10: E-Commerce

64% of Australians use e-commerce — to buy books, gifts, travel, accommodation, tickets and groceries. But the conveniences mask a serious vulnerability to fraud, as criminals obtain credit card numbers en masse from merchants’ databases, without customers knowing. And ‘card not present’ fraud – where merchants are duped by criminals presenting stolen customer details online – accounts for most of the 380,000 card fraud victims in Australia each year.

What to do

  • Always look for the security padlock symbol at the bottom of e-commerce and internet banking sites. Don’t enter credit card details unless you see the padlock.
  • Never provide card details in reply to an email – you’re probably being ‘phished’.
  • Never provide your ATM PIN over the internet – it’s only valid in ATM and EFTPOS terminals.

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