Chartered Accountants

10 Tips to Protect Your Financial Identity


1    Always visit the website of an organisation by typing the web address into your browser

If you receive an email inviting you to click on a link, always type the web address into your browser or email or call your friend or bank and confirm the contact.  Beware of emails or phone calls that supposedly come from your bank.

Why?  These may be phishing (email), vishing (phone) scams or smishing (SMS) scams, which try to grab your personal details by taking you to a hoax website that often looks genuine.

2    Treat social networking sites in the same way as face-to-face meetings

Think carefully about what information you put on Facebook, MySpace and other places where you can meet and interact with others.  Do your “friends” really need to know your date of birth, mobile number, employer or home address?  Limit access to your profile only and don’t be tempted to add friends who you do not know.  Not every friend has your best interests at heart.

Why?  You would not give all your personal details to someone in a meeting so why reveal it online.  Fraudsters can scour your profile for anything they can use for crime and they may be able to obtain enough information to pass themselves off as you.

3    Disable pop-ups in your browser

Disable pop-ups in your browser if you can.

Why?  Pop-ups are not only annoying, clicking on the pop-up message may allow others to download and install a program on your PC aimed at spying or identity theft.  They may even download a keylogger that records the keys you press and sends details to the scammer.

Most internet browsers let you block pop-ups by selecting “turn on pop-up blocker” or a variation of this term under the “Tools” or “Settings” menu.

4    Make your passwords hard to guess

Use combinations of letters, numbers and punctuation for your passwords and change them frequently.  Using any single word or easy number combination, for example your pet’s name or your birthday, makes it easy for scammers.

Why?  Email is not secure.  Scammers can intercept your email, find out your email address and guess your online email password.  Never put financial information (such as account numbers, credit card numbers, PIN or passwords) in an email.

5    Always click the “log out” button when banking online

When you visit secure sites (such as your bank website or email account), make sure you always log out.  Avoid using public computers for confidential purposes because even if you are logged out the details of your activities are still stored on the PC.

Why?  If it’s a public computer, or any computer someone else can access, scammers can use it for identity theft.

6    Check whether the website is secure

If you’re asked to provide personal information, check that the details in the address bar of the browser start with “https” (the s stands for “secure”).

Why?  It makes it easier for scammers and hackers to access sites that are not secure.

7    Check your credit report at least once a year

You can get a copy of your credit report from a credit rating agency.

Why?  By checking your credit report you can make sure no one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts.

8      Thoroughly check your account statements

Check that you have received all expected account statements.  Follow up any unfamiliar transactions by contacting your bank or financial institution.

Why?  A missing letter could indicate that a thief stole the letter from your letterbox or changed your billing address.

9    Destroy personal information –       don’t just throw it out

You should shred, cut up or burn old bills, account statements or cards to prevent scammers from getting hold of your personal information.

Why?  Scammers can go through your rubbish in the hope of finding personal information.

10  Lock your letterbox

Make sure that you have a secure lockable letterbox. Check the letterbox regularly and remove mail shortly after it has been received.

Why?  Identity thieves can easily steal letters from unlocked letterboxes.

(Source: Fido Australia Securities & Investment Commission)