Scammers hitting millions of Aussies

ONLINE identity theft has reached epidemic proportions, with 1.7 million Australians falling victim every year.

Alarmingly, increasingly sophisticated criminals are making it difficult for authorities to gain the upper hand.

Dr David Lacey, the Senior Research Fellow in identity security at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said the frightening statistic meant everyone would probably be a victim at some stage.

"If law enforcement was to respond to every one of these events it would stop, but they could do nothing else," Dr Lacey said.

"Enforcement is important but the solution is knowledge sharing.

"Criminals operate through deception and are most dangerous when people are none the wiser."

Dr Lacey is also a director of ID Care - a Coast-based identity theft support service established last October.

Since then, it has had more than 5500 "engagements" with victims of identity theft.

The non-profit, public/private agency provides people with total response plans to mitigate the risk of ID theft.

"Data tells us that on average 78% of our clients were self-detected," Dr Lacey said.

"It takes people an average of 16.8 days to self-detect they have been compromised, but it takes criminals an average of just 72 hours to use the stolen information.

"So speed is of the essence. It is crucial people take action within those first 72 hours.

"The most critical thing for them to do once they realise they have been compromised is call ID Care for help.

"If the theft is for financial gain, they should also call the police immediately as well as their financial institutions.

"If it is an online matter, they should go on to the website, which is an online reporting service and police may or may not get back to them.

"But if it is a physical matter - the loss of documents or bank accounts being raided - they should report it to their local police."

Dr Lacey said driver licences, tax file numbers and credit/debit card information were the pieces of information most commonly stolen.

The information was most commonly compromised by phone telemarketers (21%), document theft (19%) and email hacking (17%).

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