About online identity theft

Identity theft is when someone assumes another person’s identity, such as their name, bank account details or credit card number, to commit fraud or other crimes.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing areas of crime across the world and has no geographical boundaries – victims and offenders can be on opposite sides of the world. This makes it difficult for Police to investigate the crime, catch the perpetrator or help the victim.

The majority of identity crime is committed with the help of computers and other electronic devices. It can involve the theft of:

  • bank and credit card numbers
  • passports
  • names
  • addresses
  • driver licence details
  • logon details for other services.

How to protect yourself against identity theft

  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone, personally or via computers unless you are certain that the person or organisation you are giving it to is legitimate.
  • Never write your PIN numbers for your bank and credit cards on the cards themselves, or on any document or paper inside your wallet.
  • Lock your letterbox and if you stop receiving mail contact New Zealand Post as it may have been redirected.
  • Dispose of personal information securely (shred papers, wipe/remove computer hard drives before sale or disposal).
  • Minimise the amount of identification documents that you carry around, including what you leave in your car on a daily basis. These are valuable items.
  • Check bank and credit card statements for unauthorised transactions. Report any discrepancies or unauthorised activity to the bank or card issuer immediately.
  • Be very wary of how much personal information you post on publicly accessible websites. Personal information can be misused in many ways by identity thieves, some of whom trawl websites.

Advice and support for victims of identity theft

Social networking sites

Information placed on the Internet can remain there even if the original posting is removed. Be careful what you share online and always remember that what you share may never truly go away.

These tips can help keep you safe when using social networking sites like Facebook:

  • don’t post your address, phone number or other personal information you don’t want everyone to know
  • read through the privacy options carefully and make sure you thoroughly understand your rights
  • set your profile to private so only the people you want to see your profile can
  • only invite or accept ‘friends’ or people you already know.