As the world becomes more and more digitised, stories of ransomware, identity theft, hacking and online fraud seem to be more common, and to be getting closer and closer. Studies confirm that these types of crime are increasing, but it’s easy to downplay the risk and think of these as remote stories, that to happen to someone else.
For me, it’s become real, and identity theft has happened to me twice in the last 12 months. So, in order to increase awareness of this new world we are in I am sharing my story, to reinforce how anyone can be affected and how easily it can happen. It’s time for everyone to get more security conscious and to realise that basic information about you are keys to your identity, your bank accounts and a whole lot of future stress. I am not a IT guru or security expert, this is just my personal experience.
One afternoon in December 2018 I received an email from my phone company, saying “Thanks for your order, delivery is on the way.” Curious but not yet alarmed, I logged into my account. Sure enough, there were 2 new phones ordered in my name, to be delivered to random addresses and with a 24-month commitment for their payment and data use. OK, so then I was alarmed. What ensued was weeks of calls, attempts to stop the orders, stat decs, police reports, and a 4-month process of getting it sorted. Fast-forward to August 2019, and I received a text message from another company, “your order is on the way.” This time it was 3 phones worth $6000 and a 2 year commitment for data and phone use. Again, a long process followed, of days wasted dealing will call centres, police, and a lot of stress before resolution.
In both cases, I eventually found out how the impersonators worked their scheme. Beforehand I was reasonably conscious about security, however, the most disturbing part is how very little information was needed and security systems were bypassed remarkably easily. Details like phone numbers, dates of birth and addresses are quite easily found online and many people are blasé with these, splashing all manner of information online without a thought. For many companies, all it takes is a phone, address, email and date of birth. How many people know these for you? Are they public information? These details are the combination to the security vault of your life.
My conversations with police and other people in the know weren’t reassuring. The case officer informed me it’s so common and the chances of arrest very low. Mail theft is rife and I even see people in my street going through mailboxes.
Reading expert opinion on these issues reinforces that people do lots of dumb things online. They either don’t’ give it a thought or assume it won’t happen. It can and probably will. The keys to your online life are just as important as to your house. With more and more of our information online, this is a brave new world where unlocked windows and doors are now on your phone and in the availability of your key information. It’s time to assume that someone, somewhere, will try to steal from you. Do your homework and find out how to protect yourself.