Australians aged 25 to 44 have overtaken retirees and the elderly for reported cases of identity theft. According to data published by ACCC’s Scamwatch, reported cases are a third higher (32%) in 2020 than the corresponding period for 2019.

Historically, Australians over 65 report the most cases, but we are now seeing younger age groups of 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 move to the fore, suggesting a generational shift in this criminal activity.

This change reflects broader societal trends for digital technology. Unfortunately, it is easy to focus on the benefits and overlook the pitfalls of sharing information so readily.

It can be as simple as clicking on what looks to be a personalised email that actually has a dangerous payload within. Within minutes your device has downloaded a virus that will access personal information such as bank statements, identity particulars and your address book. A good trick is to validate the sender's email address by checking its domain name on Google. If you don’t recognise it, delete it immediately.

Alternatively, the criminal starts with one piece of personal information and gradually builds up a profile by harvesting information from social media. In a digital world we tend to disregard traditional mail, but items such as superannuation statements and renewal of driver’s licence cards are pure gold for criminals.

Many people are aware of scam activities but most targeted people are caught by surprise when they are contacted by a business chasing payment, or the heart wrenching moment when they realise a criminal group has used their details to take out loans in their name.

Losing control of your identity can start a downward spiral with many activities we take for granted severely impacted, whether obtaining a loan, buying a house, starting a business, or even starting a new relationship.

It can take hundreds of hours to reclaim a stolen identity and recover from a blemished credit history.

Don’t overshare on social media and use privacy settings wisely. Protect your devices and pay attention to security upgrade messages. Lock your email inbox, clean out the junk, and never click on unsuspecting links, even if it is addressed to you.

If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, please contact us immediately on 1300 36 2000. We also encourage you to report it to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps them warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible.