The police have a web page entitled How to prevent identity crime which gives many useful tips on keeping your identity safe.
The also provide a brochure with suggestions as to how you should go about it.
But the reality is that no matter how careful you are you cannot prevent someone from stealing your identity.
Take for example the following story The stolen identities of dead children were allegedly used by an elderly man to scam taxpayers of $450,000 in a rare type of benefit fraud.” How do you think the dead children or their parents could have prevented someone from stealing their identities? Well you are right they were entirely helpless.
The amazing thing is that while some government departments have realised years ago that Verification was the only thing that stands in the way of fraud, there were others which took a lot longer to cotton on. I am happy to read in that same article that verification is now being carried out but we are only part of the way there.
Let’s look at warrant of finesses as an example.
This is a small piece of paper which is stuck to your windscreen and indicates that for the current period the car is fit to be on the road.
Once upon a time there were only two ways to get this
- You had to get the vehicle tested
- You bought one in a pub.
With the advancement of technology option 2 can be avoided and you can go straight to your colour printer and print one off and stick it onto your windscreen.
So why don’t people do this?
- With the advancement of technology the police also have a data base and before they have even stopped your car they already know if you have a valid WOF or not and the copied warrant will only serve to make your life miserable. Not only will you get a fine for not having a warrant you will be fined for having a false warrant.
- Additionally if you have an accident even if it was not your fault you will not have insurance cover.
Therefore there are two criteria to the decision to use false particulars and or documents.
- The risk of being caught
- The consequences of being caught.
If the risk of being caught is low then there is an incentive to attempt to dupe the other party
If there are no consequences or the cost of the penalty is less than the proceeds of the fraudulent activity then economically speaking, the gamble is worth it.
What can we do to stop identity theft?
While you should never be complacent about your identity you have to accept that protecting your personal details is largely outside your control. Your name date of birth and your address are the three points of reference to identify you and there are many who have access to those details
- . Whenever you ring up organisations to query your bill e.g. Telephone, insurance companies etc. you will be asked security questions.. So what do they ask you.. Your name, address and date of birth
- When you open an account or obtain a loan they get your name ,address and date of birth
- Go to the doctor the hospital, get a speeding ticket – name ,address and date of birth
- Entering a competition. to qualify you need to provide name ,address and date of birth
While the privacy act requires each company to take care with your personal details there are many cracks in the system and are others who are quite reckless with your identity and in so doing your details can fall into any ones hands.
- There is no guarantee of the integrity of the person at the call centre , and with many call centres off shore the ethical standards and levels of enforcement may not be the same as here in NZ
- The storage of records in companies you trade with. It can be as simple as them selling the photo copier which has your stored details on the hard drive which can be recovered in the future by unauthorised third parties.
- The documents which are sent out in the mail, I have received them form the insurance and of late the registrar of elections. The specially marked envelopes makes these documents which contain all your personal details an easy target at any stage between leaving the electoral office and it arriving safely within your home .
It is therefore not the person whose identity is being used who has an issue it is the person who is dealing with the person who has assumed the identity. If everyone verifies who they are dealing with then the cycle of identity theft will be broken.
It is our politeness and our “not wishing to offend” which facilitates identity fraud.
Verifying who you are dealing with is easier than you think, I can come to your business and teach you how to go about it or you can contact us for the next How to verify work shop .