HomeMedia & ResourcesMedia ReleasesGenerational shift behind alarming rise of identity theft

Generational shift behind alarming rise of identity theft

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Australians aged 25 to 44 have overtaken retirees and the elderly for reported cases of identity theft.

According to data published by ACCC’s Scamwatch, reported cases are a third higher (32%) in 2020 than the corresponding period for 2019.

“Historically, Australians over 65 report the most cases, but we are now seeing younger age groups of 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 move to the fore, suggesting a generational shift in this criminal activity,” said Leanne Vale, Financial Crimes Director for the Customer Owned Banking Association.

“This change reflects broader societal trends for digital technology. Unfortunately, it is easy to focus on the benefits and overlook the pitfalls of sharing information so readily.

“It can be as simple as clicking on what looks to be a personalised email that actually has a dangerous payload within. Within minutes your device has downloaded a virus that will access personal information such as bank statements, identity particulars and your address book.

“Alternatively, the criminal starts with one piece of personal information and gradually builds up a profile by harvesting information from social media. In a digital world we tend to disregard traditional mail, but items such as superannuation statements and renewal of driver’s licence cards are pure gold for criminals.

“Most targeted people are caught by surprise when they are contacted by a business chasing payment, or the heart wrenching moment when they realise a criminal group has used their details to take out loans in their name.

“Losing control of your identity can start a downward spiral with many activities we take for granted severely impacted, whether obtaining a loan, buying a house, starting a business, or even starting a new relationship.

“It can take hundreds of hours to reclaim a stolen identity and recover from a blemished credit history.”

A former police officer and 30-year veteran working in the field of financial crimes detection and prevention, Mrs Vale provides the following advice.

“Don’t overshare on social media and use privacy settings wisely. Protect your devices and pay attention to security upgrade messages. Lock your email inbox, clean out the junk, and never click on unsuspecting links, even if they are addressed to you.”

National Scams Awareness Week runs from 17–21 August.

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