Identity financial crimes are increasing!

Cybercrime is increasing in Australia exponentially, and the Commonwealth and States have introduced laws to protect financial information.

An early case in cybercrime is R v Zehir (1998) 104 A Crim R 109, in this case the defendant used his computer to produce forty-one false birth certificates and forty-one false student identity cards. With this false information the defendant opened false bank accounts, registered business names, and applied for various drivers licences. The defendant upon opening bank accounts, then committed financial theft from the financial institutions using the identities that were created.

One of the main risks of identity crime is that personal details can be obtained on names, addresses, birthdates and so on by the means of either directly accessing government paid websites for information such as ASIC, hacking, data interception, spyware or phishing. Credit card information can similarly be obtained through the surreptitious skimming of cards. The resulting consequence is goods being fraudulently ordered, causing loss to the victims and retail and/or financial institutions concerned.

The term of identity crime is often used without precision to a specific meaning. Identity crime can involve the theft of a real person’s identity, whether they are dead or alive; or the creating of a fictitious identity which stands on its own with the use of another person information.

Identity crime may be classified as offences that refer to the use of a false identity, which includes money laundering, drug crimes, tax evasion, illegal migration, terrorism and various other matters. Identity fraud is the deceptive use of a false identity to acquire goods or services; and identity theft is the taking over the identity of another person.

The scale of identity crime in Australia is enormous, and the challenge for all citizens and residents of Australia is to remain vigilant against the possibility of cybercrime occurring to one’s identity. This is no easy task, but precautions are necessary for each person to take for the safe guarding of their identity.

An example of legislation the Commonwealth has implemented to attempt to address the issue of information misuse is the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) Part 10.89 - Financial Information offences.

Section 480.1(1) of the act defines misuse of information as follows:

Dealing in personal financial information includes supplying or using financial information.

Deception means an intentional or reckless deception, whether by words or other conduct, and whether as to fact or as to law, and includes:

(a) a deception as to the intentions of the person using the deception or any other person; and

(b) conduct by a person that causes a computer, a machine or an electronic device to make a response that the person is not authorised to cause it to do.

Personal financial information means information relating to a person that may be used (whether alone or in conjunction with other information) to access funds, credit or other financial benefits.

(2) For the purposes of this Part, a person is taken to obtain or deal in personal information without the consent of the person to whom the information relates if the consent of that person is obtained by any deception.

(3) This Part extends to personal information relating to:

(a) an individual; or

(b) a corporation; or

(c) a living or dead person.

A main element of identity crime is dishonest conduct. The Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) section 480.4 says:

Dishonestly obtaining or dealing in personal financial information:

A person is guilty of an offence if the person:

(a) dishonestly obtains, or deals in, personal financial information; and

(b) obtains, or deals in, that information without the consent of the person to whom the information relates.

The misuse of personal information and the theft of personal information all result in a form of cybercrime, where another person’s identity is used, or where a false identity is created on the information of another person. The scale of loss in Australia is in the hundreds of millions annually and there is no quick fix when personal information has been wrongly used. The most prudent solution for an individual an even a corporation for that matter is to take necessary precautions with securing information in the most appropriate and reasonable manner possible. Being vigilant with data, credit cards, and all personal information is crucial for ones protection. So take the time to understand the risks that are associated with personal information. Then when concerns arise about one’s identity, immediately get that legal advice to protect your legal rights and interests.

The comments in the aforementioned do not constitute legal advice and are general in nature, and if legal advice is required please contact: John Melis at Legal AU Pty Ltd (03) 9999 7799

Legal AU Pty Ltd Lawyers are “Liability limited by a Scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.”