Business owners reminded of dangers of identity theft

With increasing numbers of people sharing personal information on social media sites, business owners are being warned to safeguard their personal information more than ever ahead of National Identity Fraud Awareness Week (NIDFAW) from October 13-19.

With increasing numbers of people sharing personal information on social media sites, business owners are being warned to safeguard their personal information more than ever ahead of National Identity Fraud Awareness Week (NIDFAW) from October 13-19.

In its seventh year in 2013, NIDFAW is Australia’s only nationwide awareness campaign aimed at educating and protecting against identity fraud. Its organisers hope to educate both business owners and consumers on how to prevent identity fraud by promoting awareness of the value of personal details, the importance of protecting oneself online, and destroying hard copy documents containing personal information.

Mark Grover, an Aussie Private Investigator, says that identity theft is still one of Australia’s fastest growing crimes, and its rise can be put down to three reasons: 

  • People are leaving their social media pages unlocked and filling them with personal information.
  • People are increasingly careless with personal documents and are either not disposing of them properly or allowing them to be delivered to unsecured letterboxes where they are open to theft.
  • With online shopping becoming the norm, people can be careless with how they share their personal information and will often maintain obvious passwords and PINs to avoid ‘password overload’.

“Your identity is the single most valuable asset you own – and it’s worth protecting,” Grover says. “All it takes is a moment of complacency for a fraudster to snap up your identity and it can take a lifetime to get it back again.”

Peter Campbell from security company Fellowes, adds that business owners have a legal responsibility to protect the personal and financial information they might collect on behalf of their clients, suppliers and employees.

“Awareness is the first step to security – a lot of businesses don’t realise the value of the information that they hold on their premises,” Campbell explains.

“Whether you manage a small health practice or a retail shop, you are holding confidential personal or financial information. If you fail to store or dispose of this information adequately and it falls into the wrong hands, it can put you at risk of prosecution under the Privacy Act for breaching client confidentiality and you could lose your business.”

Here are some quick, cost-effective security methods that you can put in place to help reduce the risk of identity theft:

  • Shredding all personal and financial information before putting it in a bin.
  • Avoid giving out personal details or sending money over the internet or to people you don’t know and trust.
  • Locking all personal documents in a safe container when not in use.
  • Ignoring suspicious mail and emails.
  • Locking your mailbox or using a Post Office Box to receive your mail.
  • Avoid storing personal information on mobiles and laptops.
  • Checking your billing and account records carefully.
  • Choosing strong passwords and never select the ‘remember my password’ option.
  • Installing anti-virus software on your computer.
  • Checking your credit history annually to make sure there have been no major changes to your credit rating.

For more on NIDFAW, visit www.stopidfraud.com.au.

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