Ask Paul: How will I know if a scammer is using my identity?


Dear Paul,

Now that Optus and Medibank have given criminals our date of birth, names, addresses, driver's licence numbers, passport numbers and phone numbers, how do we sign up for a credit history check or notification for when the criminals try to use our ID? 

I know we can get a free yearly credit history, but how can we subscribe to notification of credit checks when banks, etc, look into our names? - Karen

ask paul clitheroe how will i know if a scammer is using my identity

What a fiasco this has been, Karen. Despite these companies bleating about how terrible the scammers are, we seem to be hearing little about how hopeless these companies are at protecting our data. They hold too much information about us and they keep it for far too long.

I wrote about Telstra very helpfully giving a replacement password for my account to a crook, with absolutely no ID or security checks.

My colleague and InvestSMART CEO, Ron Hodge, is very tech savvy, and as I said in that article, Ron had good advice, which I thought was very useful: "Place a ban on your credit report with all credit agencies so hackers cannot apply for new credit cards in your name."

Equifax was the best credit agency as it reported the alert to other credit agencies. Ron also recommended signing up to Equifax's ID Basic plan of $4.95 per month, which sends an alert if anyone attempts to use your details to apply for any sort of credit in Australia and elsewhere.

If things go wrong for you, Ron suggests contacting IDCare, a not-for-profit organisation. You can lodge official reports with these organisations:;;

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Grant Cole
March 15, 2023 4.47pm

Credit Savy will provide a monthly report free of charge and alert you to any new credit applications.

You can of course also see your Credit Score again at no cost.

Mel Pascal
March 15, 2023 6.55pm

Hi Paul

Re:-Identity Theft

This week there has been notice that a large Employer (Retail Zoo owners of Bettys Burgers, Boost etc) have had their systems hacked and all employees name/addresses/bank details/tax file numbers were stolen

They advised employees to be cautious and set up equinox

Why should employees pay for this while these companies make record profits but don't invest in monitored cyber security systems/people/barriers

Governments and Companies are not protecting us

Affected people should be paid monetary compensation as well as bring hit with hefty fines and published public notices



Stella O'Connell
March 20, 2023 2.27pm


I like your idea that companies affected should be made to pay fines and put up public notices in the newspapers and on social media, etc. This kind of publicity might help them become more motivated about investing in serious data protection.