Identity theft victims need more assistance as cyber crime skyrockets, support services say

Support services for victims of identity fraud are struggling to keep up with demand as the number of Australians scammed online skyrockets.

Key points:

Calls to IDCARE's hotline double every three months

On average it takes 54 days for a victim to discover identity theft

A criminal is usually misusing that ID within 48 hours of it being stolen

The average identity theft is almost $28,000

It is estimated more than 1 million Australians have their identity stolen each year at a cost of about $1 billion.

Operating out of a demountable building on the University of the Sunshine Coast campus is IDCARE, the only free helpline for Australian and New Zealand victims of identity fraud.

IDCARE is made up of about 20 staff — some of them volunteers — and it is funded by contributions from industry and the Federal Government.

Managing director Dr David Lacey, who spent 20 years at the Department of Defence and the Australian Crime Commission, said the number of calls has been doubling every three months.

"If we're at cyber war there's a lot of investment going into bullets and rifles at the moment but in terms of the stretcher bearers and the first aid post and those to provide the triage and the emergency support, we're it," he said.

A report on IDCARE's first year of operation found 8 per cent of clients were referred to mental health professionals for face-to-face support.

Paul MacDonald understands just how stressful identity fraud can be after hackers stole $28,500 from his retirement savings last month.

5 tips to protect yourself from ID theft:

Never provide personal information to anyone who emails or calls you

Run anti-virus software on all internet-enabled devices, including smartphones and tablets

Change your passwords regularly (after you run your latest anti-virus)

Be careful about what you provide on social media and in emails

Destroy and delete excess personal information kept physically and online

What to do if your ID is stolen:

Call IDCARE immediately (1300 IDCARE) to get free and anonymous tailored advice and support

Request a credit ban and a copy of your credit report (they are free)

Run an up-to-date anti-virus on all internet-enabled devices

Keep a log of all of your interactions with government and business

Be on the look out for increased telephone and email scams and talk to family and friends

Advice provided by IDCARE

The thieves hacked his email and advised his financial advisers to transfer cash and liquidate shares and a term deposit, worth more than $200,000.

By chance, Mr MacDonald and his wife Sandy realised when they contacted their financial advisers from a separate email account and were able to stop the trade, but they lost the cash.

When Mr MacDonald reported the theft at his local police station, he was told to contact the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).

All he got back from ACORN was an email with a tracking number confirming his case.

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of help out there. So I went looking for resources to help with this and I guess the only thing I found online anywhere in Australia is this mob called IDCARE," he said.

Mr MacDonald said people should regularly scan their computers for viruses and check email settings.

"If you've got webmail, find the settings, get into the filters and have a look and see if there are any filters in there because if there are, you've been hacked," he said.

"I know it's scary. If you've been hacked have a look at the email addresses that are sitting in that filter and you'll see who you should be talking to very quickly."

Phone number stolen, along with $80k

Sue, who wishes to be known only by her first name, lost $80,000 when thieves managed to take her mobile phone number and use it to authorise bank transfers.

Her bank required a password, delivered by text message, before processing transfers.

"I was in Airlie Beach and I tried to ring my son and he didn't return my call so I went back to my hotel and noticed my phone had 'SOS only' on it," she said.

"I got my iPad to get on Facebook, opened up my mail and saw all these transfers — NetBank notification after NetBank notification.

"In that week I got 176 emails of people purchasing stuff — $4,000 at Apple in Perth, JB Hifi in Brisbane.

"I thought I'll ring Telstra and they said you just cancelled your phone and transferred to another carrier. It was Optus.

"We don't know how it happened — we presume the driver's licence. When they opened the Optus account they had my driver's licence number. I haven't lost my bag, I haven't lost anything. All I can think of is that I never got my (licence) renewal in the mail."

Dr Lacey said there are simple security measures people can take to protect themselves, such as changing their passwords regularly and using anti-virus software.

Source: ABC News

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