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Identity Theft

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is a broad set of crimes that involves using identification information for some criminal purpose such as a name, address, date, place of birth or passport number.

An identity thief can use a false or stolen identity for a range of crimes. Any crime that uses a created, false or stolen identity can be generally classed as a form of identity theft.

Identity is not limited to name and address but includes information such as passport details, biometric data, an ABN, a digital signature and so on. Identity theft is closely linked with obtaining financial advantage by deception, general dishonesty offences, conspiracy to defraud, using a false document, forgeries, stealing etc.

Some States and Territories, like NSW, either specifically create a crime of identity theft or it becomes merely a part of other crimes – such as identity fraud, insurance fraud or general fraud.

What laws are there against identity theft?

At a federal level, identity theft is not a specific crime in Australia, but that does not mean that other charges cannot be used to successfully prosecute you for identity theft. 

Another example of a crime that would be classed as identity theft would be opening an account in a false name, which violates s 24 of the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (Cth) or using false papers under s 234 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

These types of crime, where you use an identity that is not your own in order for some sort of alleged legal gain is what generally can be classed as identity theft. Forms of Centrelink fraud can be classed as identity theft, general fraud or types of credit card ‘skimming’ and credit card fraud.

Identity theft is also becoming more prevalent online as a form of internet fraud. Due to the wide ranging nature of identity theft there are multiple offences under each State and Territory relating specifically to identity theft. 

I’ve been charged with identity theft, what do I do?

Identity theft is a crime that can range from a stolen or fake identity, to Centrelink fraud and all the way up to multi-million dollar white collar crime. Due to its nature, each of these crimes and identity theft in general are classed as dishonesty offences. They are taken very seriously by the Courts and Police.

The legislation relating to identity theft can be extremely complex and it is highly recommended that you consult a lawyer if you have been charged with identity theft, are accused of being an identity thief or have other criminal charges against you. 

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