Identity theft in the digital world

Identity theft online

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery – except when your impostor steals your friends or super fund. Keeping your identity safe in the era of email phishing demands constant vigilance.

Our identity is the set of characteristics that define you in the eyes of others. The colour of your hair, the tone of your voice, your height, your sex, your age. For millennia we’ve cultivated and manipulated this information to serve our social agenda; developing relationships, getting what we want, getting where we want to go.

In the digital age, the characteristics that form an online personality are more complex and, to make things more confusing, inherently abstract. Even more troubling is the fact that once you enter the digital world, those signifiers of identity can very easily be manipulated and stolen.

Frank Abagnale, the shyster turned FBI fraud expert immortalised in the film Catch Me If You Can recently spoke at a conference on online security and explained that, “If you tell me your date of birth and where you’re born [on Facebook] I’m 98 per-cent [of the way] to stealing your identity.”

Identity theft affects almost 800,000 Australians a year, with each case costing, on average, $4,000. Each incident requires about eighteen hours of investigation to resolve. It’s not only expensive for the individuals targeted, but places a significant burden on both the economy and law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Jarrod Boyle shows us how to keep your identity safe online in the launch issue of muse magazine.

The Australian Government’s StaySmart website is a good place to start learning about threats to online security and minimising your exposure to risk. 

If you have been a victim of cyber crime, the not-for-profit organisation ID Care offers support and counselling for victims free of charge. 

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