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Avoiding identity theft

Avoiding identity theft

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is where someone gains a benefit by pretending to be someone else. It is a type of fraud and is illegal. Examples of identity theft include somebody using your credit card without your permission, stealing money from your bank account and sending emails from your account without your permission. 

How does identity theft happen?

Identity theft can happen in many ways including as part of a well-organised international scam or by someone you know. It can happen online or over the phone. It can also happen when someone gains access to the personal information in your wallet, mail or other places.

How can someone steal my identity online?

Online identity theft is increasingly common. It occurs in a number of ways. For example, if someone creates or uses a profile on a social networking site under a fake name or by using someone else’s personal information, it is identity theft. Some social networking sites have rules to avoid identity theft. Profiles that break those rules can be removed from the site.

Perhaps an identity thief has hacked into your online accounts. This can happen when an identity thief gets hold of your password, the answers to your security questions or your login information. It can also happen through computer viruses.

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

Visit the ThinkUKnow website for information on how to protect your privacy online. The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner website has information on protecting children's personal information online.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website also has resources that may help you avoid identity theft including a factsheet Privacy-Ten tips to protect your privacy.

The Federal Attorney-General's Department has published a booklet titled Protecting Your Identity that contains information to help you protect your identity.

For more information on identity crime and how to prevent it visit the Australian Federal Police website.

Who should I tell if someone has stolen my identity?

If someone has stolen your identity to access your money, contact your bank or credit society and the police immediately.

Visit the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) to securely report instances of cybercrime (such as hacking, online scams, online fraud, identity theft and attacks on computer systems). It also has information on how to recognise and avoid common forms of cybercrime.

If someone is using your identity on a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter, report it to the website administrator. If you are a child, tell an adult.

To report a scam, go to SCAMwatch. You should also alert your friends and family to the scam.

If your Tax File Number has been used in a scam, contact the Australian Tax Office.

If you are getting unwanted spam emails, report to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Where can I get support as a victim of possible or actual identity theft?

If you think your personal information is at risk, for example, because you have lost or had your purse or wallet stolen and your personal information is at risk, you may be able to get assistance from iDcare on 1300 432 273 (toll free) Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm AEDT. iDcare is Australia and New Zealand’s free and anonymous national identity theft support service. iDcare will work with you to develop an action plan to deal with your situation.


Last reviewed: 03/09/2015

Last modified: 3/09/2015 1:33 PM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.