Online shoppers are being urged to be careful about what information they give out when on the internet, ahead of Sunday December 9, which is predicted to be a big online shopping day for Australia.
Online shoppers are being urged to be careful about what information they give out when on the internet, ahead of Sunday December 9, which is predicted to be a big online shopping day for Australia. Candyce Braithwaite

Online shoppers urged to be careful when giving out details

ONLINE shopping is expected to be big this Sunday and a credit company is urging people to be careful with their credit card details.

MyCRA Credit Rating Repair chief executive officer Graham Doessel says those consumers buying online should be careful giving out not only banking details but other pieces of personal information to unfamiliar online retailers, as this information may be used or stored for purposes of identity theft.

"If you are caught out with bank fraud, your bank may be able to monitor your accounts and in many cases reimburse you for stolen funds, but identity fraud is not so simple," he says.

"Identity theft is about building up a profile on the victim, and if fraudsters are able to do this they can request replacement copies of identification in your name and gain access to your credit rating, so it may be your personal details that the crooks are really after."  

Ebay, Paypal and Australia Post recently predicted Sunday will be Australia's biggest online retail day, with 2.3 million Australians expected to visit Ebay alone on this day.

While these retailers are familiar and trusted companies, some retailers are not always what they seem.

The Australian Federal Police released a statement on Monday warning all consumers they need to keep close their personal information as they would if they were physically at the store.

AFP National Manager High Tech Crime Operations Neil Gaughan says consumers need to ensure they protect their personal and financial information.

"Following basic security measures will prevent fraud and the disappointment and stress of financial loss when goods thought purchased are not received."

NSW Fair Trading, independent organisation Internet Fraud Watchdog and Western Union also launched the "Be Vigilant, Verify and Be Vocal" campaign against fraud in Sydney on Wednesday.

Their campaign features Olympian Giaan Rooney, who was herself a victim of fraud earlier in the year when fraudsters racked up $17,500 on her credit card.

"Fraud transcends the whole community. No-one is immune, it cuts across all Australians immaterial of age or status," she says.

Mr Doessel says these basics of safe online commerce need to become common knowledge, as consumers can not only face a loss of money, but can potentially end up identity theft victims.

This starts with two important points:

  • If the web address does not start with https:// your personal or financial details may not be safe - and the website may not be legitimate. Verify this before you proceed with entering your details.
  • People are giving away too much information to online retailers and there is a risk of that information going to identity thieves - whether that be due to a data breach or via a fraudulent retailer.

"You have to think - does this store really need my date of birth? Only give information that is necessary for the transaction - and if your date of birth is one of them, I would be questioning why," Mr Doessel says.

He says identity theft can happen to anyone, and the victim may not always know the exact circumstances leading to debts in their name.

"Sometimes the actual identity theft can have happened years ago, and it's not until the victim applies for credit and is refused that they find out. The victim will have five to seven years of being blacklisted from credit unless they are able to prove they didn't initiate the credit in the first place," Mr Doessel says.


He says if people worry they may have fallen victim to identity theft they should check their bank and credit card statements thoroughly and should also order a copy of their credit report - which would indicate if their credit file had been misused.

"Contact Police immediately and also alert your Creditors and the Credit Reporting Agencies which hold your credit file if you are at all suspicious of identity theft before it leads to fraud," he says.

Victims can also use the services of a credit rating repairer to recover their good name following identity theft.