AVG (AU/NZ) offers some advice on how to prevent criminals from stealing your identity and your money.
Did you know:
• Almost 6 million Australians are exposed to scams and frauds each year (Australian Bureau of Statistics);
• 800,000 Australians fall victim in some way;
• Almost A$1 billion is lost each year, a good part of which will go out of the Australian economy;
• The Australian Government year-long enquiry into the rapidly growing problem of cyber crime recommended banning people from connecting to the Internet unless they have proper anti-virus software.
Identity theft poses very real dangers which can have a severe impact on your life as well as a knock-on effect on your family and friends. The most worrying aspects of having your identity stolen are that it appears to be relatively easy to do and the consequences of losing your identity in today’s digitally connected world can be appalling.
Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist at AVG (AU/NZ), says: “Essentially, identity fraud means criminals using your personal information for monetary gain. This can also mean they are opening bank accounts in your name, redirecting your post to another address or even securing a passport using your personal details.
“So what can you do to prevent the fraudsters getting enough of your details to be able to clone your identity and then wreak havoc with your finances, credit rating and your life? We’ve put together a list of tips to help you stay safe and keep the bad guys at bay.”
1. Don’t throw away anything that contains personal information unless it has been shredded or ripped up to make the document illegible. So shred the following: bank statements, utility bills, application forms, chequebook stubs, card receipts and letters that have personal details. Today a smart burglar wouldn’t bother breaking into your home and taking household goods and personal items. Instead they’d just steal identity-related documents. An even smarter one wouldn’t even break in. They’d just go through your mailbox and rubbish bin.
2. Be aware of phishing phone calls – if someone asks you to give away personal information over the phone, check their details and get a phone number to call the organisation back to check they are legitimate.
3. Be very alert online – phishing attacks are a growing problem. Keep your email address as private as possible and don’t fall for emails asking you for personal information like bank account details, usernames, passwords or credit card details. A legitimate bank or financial institution will never email you asking you to follow a link or asking you for personal details. Report these scam attacks to www.scamwatch.gov.au.
4. Be careful when using social networking sites, as these can be an easy route to snatching your data. You could be giving up your personal details to the bad guys, crooks with fake profiles, or the friends of your friends who you can’t possibly know and trust. When you next log on to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, check and set the privacy settings on your accounts so that you’re only divulging information to those you truly trust. Please be very circumspect as to what personal information you post on social media web sites.
5. Always go directly to web sites asking for personal information rather than clicking on links in an email or web site page.
6. Only conduct an internet transaction if you are sure the web site is valid and secure. The rise of the internet has created a playing field for fraudsters - always ensure a web site is secure before providing personal details or account information.
7. Remember to set strong passwords. Last year, 20,000 Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail passwords were hacked only to find the most popular password was 123456. Try to use a combination of letters and numbers and change your passwords regularly.
8. Monitor your credit card and/or bank statements and look for suspicious transactions. Also check your credit status regularly; this way you’ll be aware who is doing credit searches on you and if any new accounts have been set up in your name. Contact Veda Advantage or Dun & Bradstreet to get a copy of your credit file.
9. If you move house then have your post forwarded for at least six months to prevent important mail with personal details landing on someone else’s doormat.
10. Go with your gut feel. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. If you’re suspicious as to whether an offer or request is genuine then get independent advice from a trusted advisor, family member or friend.
And if you suspect fraudulent activity then act fast and contact your bank, credit card, store cards, utility and phone companies so they can monitor irregular activity. Too hard? Then get an agency such as Secure Sentinel to help you resolve the situation.
Borrett says, “If you follow these simple steps and are vigilant it could save you lots of money and hours of wasted time cancelling cards and chasing up your bank to reclaim the stolen cash. You also may want to consider buying AVG Identity Protection, which sits on top of your existing anti-virus, shielding your passwords, credit card numbers, and other digital valuables from prying eyes. Even better, get a complete security suite solution like AVG Internet Security for total protection.”
AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site at http://www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/