Ask Paul: How can I secure my finances after the Optus data breach?


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Hi Paul,

I've recently been contacted by Optus to inform me that my data has been released to the dark web during the much-publicised hack.

My brother, who lives in Florida in the US, and is battling cancer and a hurricane at present, told me to place a freeze on my credit through one of the three companies that produce credit reports.

ask paul clitheroe ask paul how can i secure my data after the optus data breach

I put in a request through Experian, but it was rejected because I was told that I was not listed, which isn't surprising because in my 66 years I have never had a credit card, though I did have two mortgages on my house to buy and later renovate. The last of those was paid off in 2004. 

My question is: do I actually need to create a credit report through another company so that I can freeze it or am I naturally immune from criminals creating credit using my ID details simply because I have no listing?

Could you please advise me about my options to secure my finances? - Jackie

This is an interesting one, Jackie. Hacking and leaking of personal information is just a huge problem.

In my case, Telstra handed over a new password through one of its overseas call centres with absolutely no security at all. This absorbed several days as I battled to regain control of my email account.

As your brother suggested to you, I put a freeze on my credit accounts and also "froze" my credit cards.

I've spoken to some experts in this field and they suggest you are indeed in the "very low risk" category for fraud. A fraudster, even with your documents, is going to need to try to establish a credit card or line of credit with absolutely no history available to the lender.

A lender will see your age (you are a year younger than me) and with zero credit history is going to demand a very large amount of information about your income, assets and liabilities, which the crooks do not have.

Never say never - this is a strange world - but crooks may well look at your profile and know they have much softer targets. Establishing credit from nothing, in particular for us "senior citizens", is a tough thing to do. Ironically, our age makes credit applications look very hard and may well help us both against fraud.

Remain cautious, but the crooks will be far more interested in younger people with a long credit history and significant, regular mortgage and credit repayments. To say you are immune is a step too far, but with possibly millions of sets of information about so many people, fraudsters will have juicer targets.

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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.