NIDFAW spokesman Zach Pote said documents containing personal and financial information can provide fraudsters with sensitive information that has the potential to paralyse entire business operations.
“Business owners have a legal responsibility to protect their staff and client’s confidential information,” Mr Pote said.
“Whether you manage a florist shop or work in the health industry, your business holds confidential personal or financial information. If you fail to store or dispose of this information safely and it falls into the wrong hands, you risk prosecution under the Privacy Act for breaching client confidentiality and you could lose your business.”
Under the Privacy Amendment Act 2012 passed in March 2014, individuals found to be in breach of the Act can now be fined $340,000, with penalties of up to $1.7 million for an organisation.
Mr Pote said businesses must ensure they have a process for receiving and disposing of documents that may contain sensitive personal information relating to business operations.
His warning comes as an Attorney-General survey found the personal information of almost one in 10 people has been misused in the previous year.
Of these, more than half were victims of theft of credit/debit card information, name (40 per cent), bank account information (31 per cent) and address (24 per cent).
The Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia online survey of 5000 people, conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology for the Attorney-General in May 2013, found that more than two-thirds of Australians are concerned about becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud in the coming year, up from 60 per cent in 2007.
Mr Pote said while there had been a growing emphasis on protecting your online identity in recent years, paper-based crime was still rife in Australia.
“Your personal identity is as valuable as money – all it takes is for somebody to go through your rubbish or steal personal documents from your unsecured letterbox or desk to obtain details such as your full name and address, which can then be used for criminal purposes.”
Mr Pote, who is the National Sales & Marketing Manager for security products company Fellowes, recommended that all documents containing confidential personal information be shredded before being safely disposed of.
There are several simple and cost effective security methods that business owners and consumers can put in place to help reduce the risk of identity theft.
- Shred all personal and financial information before placing it in the bin
- Avoid sharing personal details or sending money online to people you don’t know or trust
- Lock all personal documents in a safe container when not in use
- Ignore suspicious mail and emails
- Lock your mailbox or use a Post Office Box
- Avoid storing personal information on mobiles and laptops
- Check your billing and account records carefully
- Choose strong passwords and never select the ‘remember my password’ option
- Install anti-virus software on your computer
- Check your credit history annually to make sure there have been no major changes to your credit rating
NIDFAW, which is supported by Fellowes, aims to educate businesses and consumers on identity fraud prevention by promoting awareness of the value of personal details, the importance of protecting yourself online and destroying hard copy documents containing personal information, such as bank statements.
For more information on how to protect against identity fraud, visit www.stopidfraud.com.au