Identity theft is a growing problem in New Zealand and can have devastating effects on people’s lives.
But what is identity theft and what can you do to avoid it happening to you?
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the act of using information about someone else to pretend to be them. The thief uses your identity for their own gain, often with financial motives.
The information that is taken in identity theft is information used by the government to identify who a person is. This includes your full name, date of birth, place of birth and address.
In some cases, an IRD number or other identifying number may also be stolen.
The IRD suspects that as many as 133,000 Kiwis will become victims of identity theft every year so this is not a rare occurrence.
When someone steals your identity, you can end up being held liable for someone else’s debts and liabilities. At the same time, you can then have problems with proving that you really are you.
10 tips to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft
- Think carefully about who you share your personal information with and how much you share about yourself.
- Be naturally suspicious – if someone calls you asking for any for your identity information ensure you ask pertinent questions and are careful about who you’re sharing the information with.
- Make sure you keep personal documents such as birth certificates and passports in a safe and secure place.
- Don’t throw important documents away, you may need them to prove your own identity over someone else.
- When disposing of correspondence with your name and address on it, ensure you shred or burn it. People can still access documents when they’re in a bin or the recycling.
- Get bank and electricity statements online. This is safer than having your personal information posted to your letterbox.
- When using public computers, avoid accessing secure sites such as government sites or your internet banking.
- Clear old information off computers before you get rid of them.
- Regularly access your credit report to ensure there has been no untoward activity. Several websites can provide you with your credit report. Creditsimple.co.nz is a good place to start.
- Think critically about unusual events or transactions that you can’t remember making and always investigate if you are unsure.
What should I do if I think I’ve been the victim of identity theft?
We recommend getting in touch with the Department of Internal Affairs. They register all births, deaths and marriages and are the authority on Kiwis’ identities.
Can you insure against identity theft?
While unusual, it is possible to insure against identity theft and we can see this becoming an increasingly popular solution as technology becomes even more prevalent in our day to day lives. Get in touch with us if this is something you’d like to explore.