Identity theft - What is identity theft?
Identity theft is using the identity information of another person to pretend to be them. This can have serious impacts on people’s lives, if they are no longer able to prove who they are.
When we talk about identity theft, identity means the facts about you that the government and businesses use to establish who you are.
These are often your:
- full name
- date of birth
- place of birth
- current address
In some cases, a number that is attached to your account, such as an IRD number.
Your identity information
Your IRD number, for example, is probably not all that important to you until you need it. You might also not think about telling someone your full name and date of birth (on a social networking site, for example). However, for someone with malicious intentions, your name and date of birth are powerful pieces of information that can unlock a lot about you. You can try searching your name on the Internet and see how much information comes up, you may be surprised.
Your identity information is valuable and important. It enables you to do many things, such as work, receive government benefits and prove that your assets belong to you. It is the first thing that will be asked for when you call a company or government agency. By staying aware of your own identity information and protecting it, you can lower your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Identity crime (which includes creating false identities) may cost the New Zealand economy as much as $209 million every year. As many as 133,000 New Zealanders may be victims of identity theft annually. Identity theft is a crime that is difficult to prosecute people for (it may have been committed overseas or online) and it can also take a long time to resolve.
Identity crime is a global problem and New Zealanders tend to be trusting people, which could make this country appear to be a soft target. This is why vigilance and awareness are vital. While the methods of identity theft change frequently as the criminals adapt, there are a number of simple things you can do to protect yourself.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, there is checklist available to assist you.
What does the Department of Internal Affairs do?
The Department of Internal Affairs registers births, deaths and marriages, as well as issuing passports and granting citizenship. It is the source of authoritative identity information for New Zealand citizens. The Department is also part of a group of government agencies that are working to tackle the problem of identity crime in New Zealand.