Fraudulent activities, including identity theft or credit card theft are some of Australia’s most common crimes. As a victim of fraud, you may experience an unexpected dip in credit score as a result of subsequent late payments and high credit utilisation. The repercussions to your financial welfare may be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are various steps which can be taken to both prevent fraudulent activities from occurring and to correct your credit history if you have been a victim.

Fraudulent activities to watch out for

The two most common fraudulent activities are:

  1. Identity theft: when someone illegally obtains and uses your personal information and account details to use existing credit, or to complete fraudulent applications to open new credit in your name. Scammers can do this through electronic viruses or malware which collect your name, birthday, Medicare number or bank details.
  2. Credit card fraud: when someone steals and/or uses your credit card to engage in unauthorised transactions. This can also be done when someone skims your account details to use in card-not-present transactions or to create a duplicate counterfeit credit card, or even when someone intercepts a mailed out card.

Regulations that apply

The relevant laws which regulate the handling of personal information for consumer credit reporting in Australia are the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) Part IIIA, the Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (Version 2.1) and the Privacy Regulation 2013. These form a regulatory framework which aims to create a comprehensive credit reporting system which protects individuals from fraudulent activities. We have discussed the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) in another article in relation to business obligations.

Protecting your credit history from fraudulent activities

It is important that while it is not your responsibility to pay back any credit used in fraudulent activities, you should act quickly to resolve the issue of fraud with your bank or financier first. There are a number of ways you can actively protect your credit history and minimise the damage caused by fraudulent activities:

  • Monitor your accounts, bank statements and credit reports regularly. If you discover any errors or unauthorised charges, immediately contact your credit providers and engage a fraud alert on your credit report so that other credit agencies are warned about the activity.
  • Apply a security alert on all of your accounts so that you can be quickly notified.
  • Change your online passwords and PINs regularly to protect your personal information. These passwords and personal information should also be kept in a secure location.

Further, if you discover that your credit card has been lost or potentially stolen, immediately notify the credit card issuer so they can put a block on the card. You should also report the crime to the police and document any communications you make with relevant credit providers or authorities regarding the matter.

Responding to fraudulent activities to correct your credit history

Request a ban

Under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 and Regulations, if you believe you are a victim of fraudulent activities, you may request that each of your credit reporting bodies (Equifax, Illion (formerly Dun and Bradstreet) and Experian) does not disclose your information in your consumer credit report. Each of these bodies will then place a 21 day ban period on your credit report, which may be extended if further investigation is needed.

Requesting and implementing this ban period will incur no charges. During this period, your information will not be disclosed unless you offer written consent or an Australian law, court or tribunal requires it. Credit providers who contact the reporting body seeking your credit history and information, will be informed of the ban and alerted to the potential fraud.

Make a credit report complaint

If you have been the victim of fraud, you may file a complaint about the information in your credit report with the relevant credit provider or credit reporting body. They should respond to the complaint within 30 days but if they don’t respond, or you are not satisfied with their response, then you may take the complaint to the relevant external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme.

If you are still not satisfied, or if you would prefer to complain directly to the regulator, you can lodge a written complaint to the Office of Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). Although, you should be made aware that the OAIC may refuse to investigate a complaint made more than 12 months after you became aware of the act or practice. Dispute mechanisms can be complex, and it is important to seek legal advice to fully understand your options when dealing with EDR schemes or formal complaints.

Contact Etheringtons Solicitors

With advancements in technology, identity theft and instances of fraud are becoming more sophisticated and are often difficult to trace. A solicitor at Etheringtons Solicitors can provide clarification of the relevant law and its relation to your individual circumstances. Furthermore, Etheringtons Solicitors can assist with contacting the relevant credit reporting bodies, your credit providers and assist with court preparations.

If you need further advice or assistance with an instance of fraud or other litigious matters, please contact one of our experienced solicitors on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form here.