Australians the easy target for identity theft


A new report has found that identity theft is set to boom in Australia, with potentially one in four Australian online shoppers targeted by hackers. The report also found that Australians are far more vulnerable to the impact of cyber-fraud than shoppers in the US and Europe.

Author of the report ‘Australian Online Consumers: Easy Prey’, University of NSW’s chief adviser on cyber security, Sorin Toma, claims that shoppers looking for post-Christmas bargains on faceless mega-sites like Amazon will be prime targets.

“Online stores like Amazon are providing hackers with a virtual ‘one-stop-shop’ for potential targets who dump critical private information in one place as they shop. In 2017 as many as 1 in 4 Australians were targeted by hackers. It’s estimated that 86 percent of identity fraud cases in Australia were enabled using the Internet,” Mr Toma said.

According to the report, one of the main reasons for the potential rise in identity theft is because younger shoppers don’t fully appreciate the value of private information and post too much personal information online.

“Hackers are finding it easy to steal information because there is so much personal information at their fingertips online. Hackers also getting smarter, often making their transactions smaller, regular and resembling normal fees and charges from legitimate vendors,” Mr Toma said.

The report also reveals that Australians using sites like Amazon are far more vulnerable to the impacts of cyber-fraud than shoppers in Europe and the US, due to the lack of adequate ‘Identity Theft Insurance’ products.

“Identity Theft insurance has been widely available in the USA and Europe for some time, however it has only recently become available in Australia,” Mr Toma said.

“Unfortunately, most of the products that are available here are redundant or highly inadequate and very few Australians are even aware of the insurance that is available,” he said.

“In the USA LifeLock, PrivacyGuard, Equifax ID-Patrol, and ProtectMyID provide more sophisticated insurance products where they cover legal fees associated with recovering your identity. They also pay wages lost as a result of having to take time off to deal with an identity fraud issue.”

The report also provides a comprehensive list of ways in which Australian consumers can minimise their risk of being victims of cyber-fraud.

“There are so many simple things that can be done to minimise your risk of being hacked. Destroy all documents containing private or financial information, don’t just bin them. Use strong passwords that contain alphanumeric characters like %,$,#,@, rather than birthdays, anniversaries, names of children or anything that could be easily guessed. Make sure you have security protection software and update your password every three to six months.

“Also be extremely careful using public wi-fi spots. It’s incredibly easy to set-up a rogue wi-fi hots spot to steal all your credentials,” Mr Toma said.

Download the media release here.

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