Identity theft has become a growing concern, as nowadays we share more and more of our personal information, especially online. Identity theft occurs when criminals access their victims’ personal information and then use it for their own gain – for example by applying for credit in their name.
Identity theft is a serious problem in NZ and globally, but by managing your personal information carefully and understanding its importance, you can reduce the likelihood of it impacting you.
Protect your identity with the following tips:
- Phishing and spam emails. If you receive cold phone calls or emails asking for any of your personal information, i.e. account details, PINs or passwords, don’t respond. Stay vigilant and be skeptical – no one should ever pressurise you to provide your personal information.
- Shred your documents. Identity fraud doesn't just happen online, so don’t give identity thieves a chance. Shred or destroy your personal information, receipts, bank statements, credit applications, insurance forms, expired credit cards and credit offers before you discard them.
- Don’t overshare on social media. When you’re using social media, don’t give away too many personal details. Never share any information that might help fraudsters guess your passwords or answers to security questions.
- Review your financial statements. Check your bank and card statements regularly and report any suspicious transactions.
- Create strong passwords. Use passwords over eight letters long, using upper and lower case plus numbers and special characters if possible. Don’t use obvious words or number sequences (e.g. password 123) or any personal details.
- Never write down or share PINs, account details or passwords.
Have you been a victim of identity theft?
It can be a shock to discover that your personal information has been stolen. Perhaps you spotted some unfamiliar transactions on a financial statement or you were unexpectedly refused credit? If you suspect that someone has used your name or personal information to get credit, the following steps can help:
- Contact lenders. Contact all relevant creditors, banks, utilities and phone companies and instruct them to freeze your account. Most creditors will quickly issue replacement cards with new account numbers.
- Report your suspicions. Inform the police and contact us if you think that fraudulent items are on your credit report. We will co-ordinate with the other credit reference agencies.
- Check your financial statements. Continue to check all your statements thoroughly for any unusual transactions.
- Keep a record. Recovering from identity fraud can be a lengthy process, so you should also keep a record of all your communications.