Identity crime refers to the theft of a person's identity and can include taking and using elements such as a person's name, date-of-birth, address or other information. Criminals use this information to conduct fraudulent activities such as opening accounts, applying for credit or taking out loans, conducting business, claiming government and other benefits or many other forms of illegal activity. What are the risks and impacts? Criminals use a variety of methods to steal a person's identity. This can include going through rubbish bins to find bank statements and other documents; stealing wallets and purses; impersonating service providers and asking for personal information directly and using technology and the internet to steal and record personal details. Once a criminal has your information you can find yourself in a serious financial and legal mess that can impact you financially and emotionally. You may end up with debts that you cannot prove are not yours. Investigating identity theft is a lengthy, complex and expensive process. It is estimated that at least 93,000 New Zealanders are victims of identity theft each year.^ How SecureIdentity helps to protect you SecureIdentity helps you to protect yourself against identity theft by detecting activity that may indicate if your identity is being compromised. By providing you with your personal credit file, you'll be able to check the accuracy of the information in the report and take action if you notice anything that's inaccurate. We'll also send you a credit alert whenever specific changes are made to your credit file. This may act as an early warning system that can help to alert you to any suspicious activity. Practical steps to protect your identity There are many simple and easy steps that you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft: Shred or tear up documentation before you throw it in the recycling bin to prevent criminals finding your details should they sift through your rubbish. Use a lock on your letterbox and make sure that you place mail holds or mail redirects if you are travelling or change address. Never allow shop assistants or waiters to take your credit or debit cards out of your sight when completing transactions. This can help to prevent 'skimming' where thieves take your credit card details to use again later. Check your bank accounts each month or check them online and look into any abnormal account activities. Consider getting your credit file and using credit alerts to remain aware of any changes to your credit file. Never give any personal information to telemarketers, door-to-door sales people or market researchers. Always shield the keypad when you enter your PIN into an Automatic Teller Machine. If you suspect that the ATM may have been compromised, do not use it and try to advise the owner. Never provide your personal details to anyone that calls you or contacts you via email. Criminals may pretend to be from your financial institution. If this happens, use caution. If you believe it to be legitimate, ask for the person's name, department and call the financial institution directly to be sure you are speaking to a genuine employee. Don't share personal information on social networking sites such as facebook. It's never a good idea to publicise your date of birth and other information that is used in authentication for other services Don't use public computers such as those in libraries or internet cafes for internet banking. Make sure you use virus protection software on your home computers. Make sure you use secure passwords rather than simply your name or anything very easy such as password123.