Identity theft and securing your information

Identity theft is the act of stealing someone's identity. The thief pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity with the goal of gaining access to resources, credit or other benefits in that person's name.

The thought of having your personal information stolen is certainly worrying. And even more so is that it is a growing crime in Australia.

Imagine someone using your identity to do financial transactions under your name - using your credit card to buy goods and services, emptying your bank account and getting into debt that you'll become liable for. You may also not realise that it has happened until you've seen you bank balance or checked your credit rating.

It can take months to reclaim your identity and the impact of the crime can be both financially and emotionally devastating. Some people never recover fully from the experience.

As a business you will have several identities and masses of information to protect - your staff's, your business's and your client's. You should also be safe guarding your intellectual property.

Theft of information can be by electronic avenues - but don't neglect the physical as well. Think of what is in your recycling or rubbish bin. Is it sensitive information? Could someone use that information against you?

Tips to protect information

We had an informative chat with Michael from the Maroondah business Secure M Information Destruction who assists his clients with the safe disposal of physical information and has given us some tips to protect information.

1. Guard your clients information - all businesses are a target for identity thieves.

2. When collecting information - avoid asking customers for personal information, unless no other option is available.

3. When asking for personal information - avoid doing so in front of other customers and turn computers screens away from public view.

4. Protect computers - have passwords and additional security measures such as firewalls, anti-virus software, spyware protection software and encryption software.

5. Protect correspondence - lock your mailbox.

6. Dispose of sensitive information carefully.

Disposing information

When disposing of physical information you should also remember:

  • Media - CDs and DVDs
  • USBs
  • Computer hard drives (remove these from the computer before throwing the computer out)
  • Documents
  • More modern photopiers have a hard drive (so every document photocopied or scanned will be in the memory)

When determining if the information should be shredded versus recycled, sensitive material that should be shredded includes:

  • Names
  • Drivers licenses
  • Addresses
  • Date of birth
  • Credit card numbers
  • Business-in-confidence documents
  • Medical and dental records
  • Business plans
  • Invoices
  • Price lists
  • Product schematics

Businesses also have intellectual property to protect - can you imagine what it would be like if your competitor got hold of your customer list or the schematics of your product?

Some information destruction businesses (including Michael's) offer a lockable security wheelie bin, so businesses can put their documents for disposal straight into the bin and can ring up to get it removed.

Sensitive material should be looked after and not be treated like rubbish and put in the recycling bin because it could end up anywhere. How many times have you seen sensitive documents on the nature strip after bin night?

Hope that people can be trusted, but take security precautions just in case they can't be.

More information 

For more information about identity theft and privacy laws visit:

Meet the business

Michael Secure M Information SecuritySecure M Information Destruction is a Maroondah business providing the secure destruction of physical information - specialising in everything from documents right through to computer hard drives.

They have a chain of custody process from the point of pick up at the customer's site right through until they are destroyed and all personnel are police checked. They offer a pickup service and can pickup small quantities as small as an archival box right through to many pallets worth.

Visit Secure M website to see how they can assist you with your information destruction.