With almost every aspect of your life being managed and transacted online, have you ever stopped to question how complacent you might be with your identity?

In 2018, Australians lost at least $1.4million to identity theft according to Scamwatch. “Identity theft is a key trend affecting our clients right now,” Macquarie Banking and Financial Services Associate Director Jonathan Martin told the audience at our recent breakfast briefing on fraud awareness.

Here are a few things that should trigger alarm bells – and some proactive things you can do to stay safe online.

Is your phone suddenly out of service?

Jonathan hears of at least a few cases of phone porting every month. If a fraudster gets hold of your mobile phone number and account details, they can call your provider, transferring your service to a new provider… and could then use your online banking SMS verification service to start emptying your bank accounts.

"If your phone suddenly goes dead or has no signal, that’s a warning sign," says Jonathan. "Check if it’s a genuine outage."

  • If your phone loses service, ask a friend on the same service if they are having problems
  • If you suspect your phone has been hacked, call your phone provider and your bank immediately.

How strong are your passwords?

Remembering multiple passwords is a constant source of friction in online life. However, weak and commonly used passwords like ‘password 123’ are the easiest way into your identity.

“Once a fraudster has one password, they’ll test it on everything – from social media to online banking,” says Jonathan. It is not sufficient to change one character of a compromised password, as fraudsters will try this.

  • Stop using the same password across multiple platforms
  • Use a password manager to make it easier – then you just need one really strong password to access your encrypted password vault

How much are you sharing on social media?

So much of the seemingly innocuous information you share on social media could be a golden ticket to your identity. “There’s a dark side to social media, so be careful what you post,” warns Jonathan.

“To re-set your passwords, you usually have to answer security questions. The problem is, you’re probably leaving tell-tale signs across your social media channels,” says Jonathan. Examples include where you went to school, the names of your children, your mother’s maiden name and even your date of birth.

  • Keep your privacy settings on social media set high
  • Ensure that your passwords are unique – not just regularly changing passwords, where one or two characters alters
  • Don’t accept friend requests from strangers

Has any of your mail gone missing?

If you haven’t received a regular statement by post lately, there’s a good chance you could be a victim of ‘boxers’, who raid mailboxes for valuable credit card and bank account details.

“With a few documents they could have enough information to take out credit in your name,” says Jonathan. “It’s important to check your credit file at least once a year, because it’s your responsibility to tell your bank if there is any unusual activity.”

  • Switch to online statements. Notifications are usually sent by email, but documents are typically not linked from email
  • Check your credit file every year.

Do you ever use public Wi-Fi?

If you’re travelling, it’s tempting to login to the free café or hotel Wi-Fi. But if you then do any online banking or other transactions, your data could be at risk. It’s just not worth it. “We had a client who thought he was logged into his hotel Wi-Fi, but it was really a fake public Wi-Fi address,” noted Jonathan.

  • Save online financial transactions for secure Wi-Fi.
  • Avoid logging into email address or social accounts on publicly available Wi-Fi
  • Consider using a VPN, or using mobile data

In every case, your best defence is to have unique password, using two factor authentication where possible. Be alert, look for clues – and if anything looks suspicious, let your bank know.

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Additional information

The information on this page has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 (AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502) and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making any financial investment decision or a decision about whether to acquire a financial, credit or lending product, a person should obtain and review the terms and conditions relating to that product and also seek independent financial, legal and taxation advice. All applications are subject to Macquarie’s standard credit approval criteria. This information is intended for recipients in Australia only.

1 Source: PwC Global Economic Crime Survey 2014 .