Identity theft leaves mum 'scared to go outside'
A young mum says she's scared to leave the house after her identity was stolen and used to open more than 50 different accounts in her name.
Melbourne woman Lucretia says she’s worried someone is using her identity to commit crimes.
“I don't understand why you would need to use someone else's name unless you’re doing something that's not right,” she told A Current Affair.
“I'm worried about driving down the street and someone pulling me over and going 'so you've done this' and I would have my kids with me.”
The 33-year-old’s ordeal started last month when she received a letter from debt collectors saying she owed more than $2000 on a mobile phone bill.
“Not at any point did I receive a bill to say, you owe any money," she said.
That’s because a stranger had used her details to open the account and changed the billing address so she didn’t receive any mail.
And over the next weeks, Lucretia received many more letters from banks and credit card companies, all saying she had taken out accounts or applied for loans.
“Thousands of dollars have been spent in my name by other people and are probably still being spent in my name,” she said.
Lucretia has no idea how her identity was stolen. She thinks someone has somehow made a copy of her licence.
But Nigel Phair, Director of Cyber at the University of New South Wales Canberra, says hackers need very few details to build up a profile of victims.
“It's very easy for criminals to get access to people's online information,” Mr Phair told A Current Affair.
“They can do it through physical means like going through a garbage bin and getting out utility bills, or by going online and Googling someone and where they work and piecing pieces of the puzzle together.”
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Australians have their identities stolen – costing the country’s economy more than $2.6 billion.
At the moment, victim’s best bet is to report the crime to police, as well as the government website ACORN.
But Mr Phair says we need to set up a better support system for victims.
“In Australia we need a clearing house so that firstly victims or potential victims, because you might not know what's happened to you, need to understand where to report to,” he said.
“At the back end of that we need a triage system where any financial information goes into an area and is given to the banking institutions so they can put a block on that instantaneously.”
Lucretia says she wishes there was more support for victims. After countless hours of phone calls and visits to bank, the young mother is still receiving letters saying accounts have been opened in her name.
“I don't want anyone else to experience this," she said.
"I want people to understand that there is so much more than happens in your name than you can control and it makes you feel really worthless.”
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
1. Update and run anti-virus protection on all devices including phones.
2. Enable automatic updates on your computer
3. Have a strong password - Nigel's advice is the longer the better
4. Closely monitor bank, utility and phone accounts for any dodgy transactions.