Centenary Crime Prevention Unit police officers and volunteers try to contact anyone who has been the unfortunate victim of a crime in the areas serviced by Acacia Ridge, Calamvale, Inala, Mount Ommaney and Sherwood Police Stations; to offer assistance in the areas of home and vehicle security, as well as personal safety. One type of assistance that can be offered is a Home Security Assessment.
During a Home Security Assessment the residents’ current security is discussed and any weaknesses identified so that the residents can consider improvements if needed. Part of the assessment includes the question of storage and disposal of documents containing personal information. Not everyone appreciates the importance of protecting their identity and it isn’t unusual for people to say they simply put their documents in the recycling bin. This can make identity theft very easy for someone who wants to take advantage of you.
Scamwatch, which is an arm of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, defines identity theft very simply as “a type of fraud that involves using someone else’s identity to steal money or gain other benefits”. While money is the usual target for identity theft, it can also be used to gain other benefits that a person isn’t entitled to.
Identity is a bit like finger prints, unique to an individual and something that should be protected at all costs. If someone has your personal details they can “become” you, running up debts all over town, taking out loans in your name and so on. The loss of money and the difficulties associated with proving that it was not you who used your identity can be both embarrassing and time consuming, not to mention the possible effect on your credit rating.
So what can you do to protect your identity!!! Start by securing your letterbox so that people passing by can’t easily remove your mail, collect the mail as soon as possible after it is delivered and try not to leave it in the letterbox overnight. The rates notice, electricity account and bank statements all include personal information and are an easy source of information for thieves.
We all have filing cabinets or shoe boxes where we keep our personal documents and we need to keep them away from prying eyes as much as we can. Eventually most of these documents will need to be disposed of and possibly one of our greatest challenges, although it shouldn’t be, is how we dispose of papers that include personal details.
The yellow recycle bins aren’t checked to make sure they don’t contain your identity, unless it is by thieves, so it isn’t safe to put personal information out with the newspapers and cereal boxes. You can tear papers you no longer need into small pieces so that your name and address etc. can’t be read or re-assembled but a better form of destruction is to use a shredder that completely destroys the paper – the best type is a cross cut shredder that cuts across the paper as well as down. Whatever method you use it needs to completely destroy the document so that it can’t be put back together like a jigsaw.
It isn’t just the bank statement or utilities account that has personal information on it – how about the envelope the mail comes in!!!
Personal documents are just one source of information for “identity thieves” and it is equally important to take extreme care with passwords, our various cards and their pin numbers, emails, social media, security software and any other technology that we use. Let’s start by protecting our “paper” records and then visit Scamwatch (https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/) to find more about scams, how they happen and how we can protect ourselves in the digital world.