When most people think about identity theft, they think it’s something that happens in the movies, or at least to other people. They certainly don’t think of it as something that could happen to them; according to the credit bureau Veda, although more than 770,000 Australians were victims of this type of crime in 2015. With an average cost of $4,000 per incident, that equates to billions of dollars of fraudulent transactions.
Since Australia currently has a population of a little over 24 million, it also means that more than 3 percent, or three out of every 100 people, have experienced this type of fraud over the past year. Those are some scary numbers, and it’s bad news for consumers and businesses alike! It’s one of the reasons why clear identity verification is so important for businesses, and it will only become more prevalent as time goes by.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Many people think of identity theft as some sort of sophisticated crime, carried out by brilliant hackers like we see in the movies. The truth is, however, that the criminals who perpetrate these types of crimes often use low-tech methods like going through garbage or breaking into cars or mailboxes to get the personal information they need to create a clone of your information.
In fact, it takes surprisingly little personal information to begin a process that could clean out your bank accounts or leave you owing money on a car you never purchased.
What Can Consumers Do?
The most important thing consumers can do is to be vigilant and aware. Make sure all of your accounts are set up with every available security feature, never use generic passwords, and set up any notifications available. Even if you don’t use an account for a while, log in from time to time to check in, or better yet, close any unused accounts. It’s surprising how much information can be gathered once one of your accounts is breached.
Be wary of official-looking emails from banks or other institutions that request login information (they’re almost always a phishing scam) and be careful about online security.
Finally, if your mailbox, car or any other place where you store personal information is broken into, assume all of your accounts are at risk, and let everyone know there is a risk that your information may be used fraudulently.
In many cases, there are ways to reverse fraudulent transactions on your accounts, but they can be time-consuming, and you may find that while you go through the process, your credit record and history could be damaged.
What Can Businesses Do?
Ultimately, when identity theft results in fraudulent transactions, companies are left out of pocket, so it makes sense to ensure your business uses the best identity verification methods available.
Verify that any new account applications are genuine, and stay abreast of the latest anti-fraud measures. Offering your customers several layers of security on their transactions and accounts protects not only them but also your bottom line.
Create a policy for suspicious transactions, and make sure you are insured against fraud.
The fact is, identity theft is here to stay, whether we like it or not, and it’s becoming an epidemic. The only way to beat it is for consumers and companies to work together to stamp the problem out.