Identity and crime

Identity crime and misuse of identity information affects millions of Australians each year.

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What is it, and why?

Identity crime includes:

  • theft of identity information and related financial information
  • ‘identity takeover’ – assuming another identity for fraudulent purposes
  • ‘identity creation’ – producing false identities and financial documents to enable other crimes.

Identity crime is often used to commit more serious crime, such as:

  • fraud (e.g. credit card fraud, superannuation fraud, tax fraud, welfare fraud)
  • financing of organised crime (e.g. money laundering)
  • concealment of serious crime (e.g. drug trafficking, production/distribution of child exploitation material, human trafficking, acts of terrorism).

Fraud, Identity Crime, Organised Crime, Servious Crime

Identity crime in a digital world

More government and business services are being made available online.

Digital transactions, which have significant benefits and make life easier for customers, are also increasing the volume of information being transmitted over the internet.

This increase in digital information provides criminals with greater opportunities to undertake cyber-attacks remotely and on a larger scale, leading to increased rates of identity crime.

Identity criminals are sophisticated in their methods and quickly adapt to increased cybersecurity and improved identity management processes.

The way the NSW Government keeps personal information safe must change often to keep up with new technology and methods developed by criminals.

It is critical that any personal information, including address information, entered into government records is accurate and true. By requesting ‘proof’ of this information, agencies make it much harder for criminals to create false identities or perform identity takeovers.

Victims can report identity crime to many organisations, such as their bank, Service NSW, Services Australia, the police, Scamwatch and other organisations. This makes it hard to understand how often identity crime occurs and means victims of identity crime often receive inconsistent advice.

The NSW Government established ID Support NSW to make it easier for people to access support if their identity is compromised, stolen or fraudulently used. ID Support NSW has specialist advisors experienced in remediating compromised identities and providing advice for individuals impacted by data breaches.

The impact on victims can be significant and can last for a long time. In addition to financial impacts, identity crime can affect victims emotionally and psychologically. It can also impact vulnerable groups disproportionately, as they can be at risk of exploitation.

The Identity Priorities outlined in this strategy provide consistency in the delivery of identity products and services by the NSW Government. They ensure the safety of personal information is a central focus of all identity projects so customers can interact safely both online and over the counter.

A case study on identity crime

A man typing on a laptop inside a dark room


John Criminal found a stolen copy of Daniel Citizen’s driver licence on the dark web. 

John paid someone to steal mail from Daniel’s apartment building, and obtained his mobile phone bill, bank statement and electricity bill.

John called Daniel’s electricity company. He answered the security questions with information he had found on Daniel’s social media accounts. He was able to obtain extra personal information.

John called Daniel’s mobile phone provider to transfer Daniel’s phone number over to his own device.

John then contacted Daniel’s bank, claimed he had lost his internet banking details and asked them to reset Daniel’s password.

The bank texted a confirmation code to Daniel’s number listed on file, now on John’s device.

John logged into Daniel’s account and transferred out $12,000.

Daniel spent many months trying to recover his money. Daniel’s personal information may still be available to other criminals and he remains at risk.

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