Protecting your identity: A guide to help protect yourself online

friends making sure their online identity is protected

 Estimated read time: 4 Minutes

The annual economic impact of cybercrime in Australia was more than $33 billion in the 2021-2022 financial year.1 But the damage can be much more than financial – it can be far reaching and may drag on for years. Your identity is one of your most private and precious possessions – but it can be easier to steal than you might think.

If a cyber-criminal manages to get hold of your personal information, it’s possible that they could use it to make loan or credit card applications in your name – accessing your money, building up debts you don’t know about and putting your credit rating at risk.

Many victims discover that one of the hardest parts of the ordeal is then proving they didn’t make the loan applications in their name.

Identity theft can be emotionally and financially draining, so it’s important to understand what it is and how you can take steps to help protect your identity online.

What is identity theft?

When a criminal uses your personal information (such as your name, date of birth or bank account details) to steal your money, open credit card accounts in your name or gain other benefits, that’s identity theft.

 

How can criminals steal my identity? 

Identify theft usually happens through one of two ways.

  1. Criminals access your personal information online. They can do this through phishing scams, data breaches, stealing data from your social media profile or hacking into other online accounts.
  2. You lose, or criminals steal your personal documents. Thieves steal your personal documents from your mail, rubbish or by breaking into your house. Criminals can also get their hands on your information through lost wallets or handbags.

 

How to help protect your identity 

Identity theft is a serious crime, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. 

Create strong passwords

Create strong passwords

It could be a good idea to have different passwords for every device and account. They should be strong and changed regularly. 

A strong password typically has a combination of random upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, and have no personal connection to you. 
 
For example, Tr0ub4dor&3 is strong, while Password19# or Julie79$ are weak. 

Don’t open or click unless you’re sure

Don’t open or click unless you’re sure

Don’t open unsolicited emails or text messages and don’t click on suspicious links until you are sure they are not a scam. Learn more about how to identify a phishing message
Be private on social media

Be private on social media

It could be a good idea to change your social media settings to private. Don’t share sensitive information such as your date of birth, address or phone number on your profile or in a comment on a public post, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. 
Secure your personal documents and mail

Secure your personal documents and mail

Keep your important documents in a safe place, and if you’re throwing out documents with personal information, shred or destroy them first. 

If you can, lock your mailbox and remove your mail daily. If you move house, let relevant organisations and government agencies know where to forward your mail. 
Check your statements carefully

Check your statements carefully

Carefully check your bank statements as soon as you receive them, and check your credit report to help catch any unusual activity. 
Check your statements carefully

Dispose of your computer and devices securely

Remove all files and personal information from your computer, phone and other devices when you sell or dispose of them. Consider a ‘data destruction’ software for your computer, as deleted files can be recovered. 
Take data breaches seriously

Take data breaches seriously

Data breaches are far too common, but it doesn’t make them any less serious. With new laws in place since February 2018, eligible organisations are obliged to notify individuals whose personal information has been lost, stolen or subject to unauthorised access or disclosure (data breach).

If you receive a data breach notification from an organisation you should: 

  • Find out what information was stolen – your contact details, date of birth or account numbers, or passwords and/or credit card details 
  • Change passwords to affected accounts immediately 
  • Contact your financial institution(s) immediately and review your statements.
How do I know if my identity has been stolen

How do I know if my identity has been stolen?

There are a number of warning signs that could indicate you might be a victim of identity fraud.

  • Items on your bank statement you don’t recall or recognise
  • Invoices sent to you for products or services you didn’t order
  • Your credit or loan application is declined, despite a good credit history
  • Your credit score has dropped for no apparent reason
  • You have been notified that your personal information was included in a data breach.

What do I do if I think my identity has been stolen?

Identity theft is a serious crime. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, report it immediately to your bank, your local police, and to the Australian Cyber Security Centre
 
You should also change your password on your accounts and close any unauthorised accounts in your name straight away. 
 
For more information about protecting your identity, visit ID Care
 
If you think your Pepper account has been compromised, contact us immediately by calling Customer Service on 137 377.

Information provided is factual information only and is not intended to imply any recommendation about any financial product(s) or constitute tax advice. If you require financial or tax advice you should consult a licensed financial or tax adviser.

All applications are subject to credit assessment, eligibility criteria and lending limits. Terms, conditions, fees and charges apply. 

The results of the borrowing power calculator are based on information you have provided and is to be used as a guide only. The output of the calculator is subject to the assumptions provided in the calculator (see 'about this calculator') and are subject to change. It does not constitute a quote, pre-qualification, approval for credit or an offer for credit and you should not enter commitments based on it. The interest rates do not reflect true interest rates and the formula used for the purpose of calculating estimated borrowing power is based on the assumption that interest rates remain constant for the chosen loan term. Your borrowing power amount will be different if a full application is submitted and we complete responsible lending assessment. The results in the calculator do not take into account loan setup or establishment fees nor government, statutory or lenders fees, which may be applicable from time to time. Calculator by Widgetworks.

Pepper Money Personal Loans is a brand of Pepper Money Limited. Credit is provided by Now Finance Group Pty Ltd, Australian Credit Licence Number 425142 as agent for NF Finco 2 Pty Limited ACN 164 213 030. Personal information for Pepper Money Personal Loans is collected, used and disclosed in accordance with Pepper’s Privacy Policy & the credit provider’s Privacy Policy.

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