Identity theft is when someone uses your identity information to pretend to be you.
Information that can be stolen includes your:
- date of birth
- place of birth
- telephone numbers
- passport details
- driver licence
- bank account numbers
- email addresses
- social networking details (Facebook, etc).
A lot of your identity information is publicly available. If you control the amount of information you release, you can reduce the chance of someone stealing your identity.
If you’re a victim of identity theft you might not realise until some time after the offence. You need to report the offence to the Police as soon as you find out.
How to protect yourself
Identity theft is more likely to happen if you don't take steps to protect your identity information.
- Use strong passwords online — don’t use the same one for everything.
- Be wary about requests for your information, especially online or via email.
- Consider what you post online — once online it's often impossible to completely remove.
- If someone asks for your identity information, ask why they need it, and what they intend to do with it.
- Keep key identity documents like your birth certificate and passport in a safe and secure place.
- Shred or burn bank statements, electricity bills and any piece of correspondence with your name and address on it.
- If you bank online, don't make sensitive transactions on a shared or public computer.
- Remove all personal information from computers before you dispose of them.
- If you receive or notice anything suspicious, eg letters from creditors or bank transactions you can’t remember making, follow up immediately with the organisation your account's with.
What to do if you're the victim of identity theft
If you suspect or know that someone is fraudulently using your identity in any way, you should contact the police. You'll also need to contact the organisation your identity information is connected with, eg Department of Internal Affairs for a stolen passport, your bank for compromised bank accounts or credit cards.
Use the Department of Internal Affairs' online checklist to get advice specific to your circumstances.
You can also get free help from IDCARE — New Zealand’s national identity theft support service.
Freephone: 0800 201 415
There have been cases of identity theft where someone applies for credit using another person’s name. You can ask a credit reporting company not to release your credit information if you think you’re the victim of fraud.