Avoiding identity theft

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Identity theft is something which most of us think happens to other people, but it’s estimated that one in five Australians are affected each year at a cost of $3 billion.

The increase of online activity maybe a contributing factor, but it’s often something as simple as accessible street mail which causes problems for ordinary Australians. So, what steps can you take to avoid becoming a victim of one of Australia’s fastest growing crimes?

Ensure your mail is secure

With many homes having a mailbox which either doesn’t lock, or on which the lock is flimsy, you may wish to consider a PO box. Not only will this save you from giving out your home address, but you can also safely store your mail if you’re away from home. There is a cost to this service – $25 establishment fee and $107 annually if you renew before 31 March each year.

Limit your street mail

While there are security concerns surrounding online bank accounts and credit cards, if you follow the correct protocols, your money and identity are actually pretty safe. So you may want to consider switching to online bills and statements, which means that the chance of having your mail and personal details fall into the wrong hands is greatly reduced. Many suppliers and financial institutions also charge for paper statements sent through the mail, so you could actually save money by making the switch.

Shred documents no longer required

Meticulous filing is good, but consider how long you actually need to keep statements, bills and receipts which may contain personal details. Even junk mail can have a value, particularly if it’s offering a new credit product or limit increase, so rather than simply tossing in the bin, invest in a good shredder.

Close inactive accounts

While this may seem highly unlikely, there are those who have credit accounts which are inactive and often unmonitored. Perhaps you’ve transferred a balance from one card to another but never thought to close the old one. Or maybe you’ve switched banks and only have a few dollars in the old account about which you’re unconcerned. If you’ve forgotten about these accounts, it is possible that someone could have intercepted a replacement card sent to you. Close them if they are no longer needed.

Check your credit report

This isn’t something you need to do every month, but it is a worthwhile exercise. Not only will you be alerted to anything unusual, you’ll also be able to see who has accessed your record and decide whether or not they had the authority to do so. Credit reporting companies are obliged to provide a free copy of your report, but you may have to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive. If you need a copy quickly, there is a charge involved.

If you’re concerned about identity theft, think you may have inadvertently been a victim or have received mail which you don’t think is legitimate, then visit Scamwatch.gov.au.

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Written by Debbie McTaggart

7 Comments

Total Comments: 7
  1. 0
    0

    As a Financial Administrator, I have heaps of paperwork to keep for so many years. Also you need to be aware of what receipts you are shredding as some may be needed in an Insurance claim. I try and have a clean-out once a year for personal stuff. Biggest problems is that hubby hoards paperwork and there are draws fill with paperwork that is no longer needed. I do usually save a copy of a receipt to the puter.

    • 0
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      Only drawers? You are lucky.

    • 0
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      1 Scan all your receipts. There are some stores (Officeworks, The Good Guys, Harvey Norman) who can send your receipt to you by e-mail – just ask them.

      2 Keep all of your ‘soft copies’ of your receipts in a folder eg ‘Officeworks 2019’, then archive them when you’ve done your tax return. You can give them to your accountant on a USB drive to do your tax returns, etc.

      3 Have all your bills sent to you by e-mail. Then you can download them and save them to a folder on your computer. Eg Telstra, 2019 for your 2019 phone bills, etc.

      4 Have your bank send you an e-mail when your statement/s are ready to download. Download them and save them into your Banking folder in your My Docs drive.

      5 Always have your hard drive on your computer ‘partitioned’. Then all you need to do is keep your My Documents folder on your second partition rather than on your C drive. Then if you have to reinstall your system after a failure, then your documents won’t be affected as the C drive is the only drive affected.

      6 Purchase an external drive to keep all your backed-up information on. I’ve purchased several 2.5 inch internal drives in the past for my old Dell laptops. They are now used with an external drive enclosure and connected by a USB cable to my computer to back up my information.

  2. 0
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    Vic roads and probably some others will not accept a Po box

  3. 0
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    I have had a PO Box for many years and it annoys me how many companies etc will not accept it. Especially things like EBay for delivery. I have asked so many times but have not got any explanation as to why from anyone ( except one person whose response was ‘company policy’ but they had no idea why!. Does anyone know why PO Boxes would not be accepted? Surely in the case of delivery it is safer for both the sender and the receiver? I tried the Post Office and suggested they would do better if they followed up with non-accepters but received a decided lack of interest for a reply.

  4. 0
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    you would limit your street mail and reduce your risk if you use a PO Box! It is also much easier if you move as you don’t need to change your address ( except for the problem companies that don’t accept PO Box). You could challenge that response as I always do and sometimes they finally accept5 it!

  5. 0
    0

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