Identity theft and identity fraud refer to crimes where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data including their bank, loan or credit card account details in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
If you're a victim, someone else has the ability to misuse your identity and access your money.
Identity theft involves the theft of a pre-existing identity. It may occur when a criminal steals or comes into possession of your personal information, such as your name, bank account, loan account, credit card account details, address, date of birth, driver's license etc and assumes your identity to commit fraud.
Criminals commit this crime by applying for credit, running up bills and not paying creditors – all under another person's name.
Identity theft can range from a criminal using your credit card details illegally to make purchases over the internet or telephone, through to having your entire identity assumed and used to open bank accounts, take out loans, lodge tax returns and conduct other business illegally in your name. When someone assumes your identity it is known as 'Identity Takeover'.
Identity takeover is relatively rare in Australia, but using aspects of your identity to commit fraud can and does happen.
It can also happen quickly. You might have your credit card details skimmed when you make a purchase, lose your wallet or other personal effects, or have them stolen. House break-ins and mail theft are also way in which fraudsters can get information about you. Perhaps most unexpected of all, you could have your identity stolen and used by someone you know and trust - a friend, relative or work colleague. More information on protecting yourself or your business or dealing with Identity Theft can be found at Protect Your Financial Identity.
For useful information and advice about banking and online scams please refer to our Fraud Warnings & Scam Alerts.
Your tax file number (TFN) is used to identify you in your dealings with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). You should destroy or delete your TFN from any documents before throwing them away. Your TFN and other personal information can be used to lodge tax returns and other tax forms, to receive refunds in your name.
If your TFN is known to, or being used by someone who shouldn't have it, this is referred to as a compromised TFN.
The ATO Client Identity Support Centre is a support service for taxpayers who have had their identities compromised (stolen, misused, or lost). The Centre will give you information, advice and assistance to re-establish your identity.