What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a broad set of crimes that involves using identification information such as a name, address, place of birth or passport number, for criminal purposes.
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.
Another example of a crime that would be classed 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. this can also include forms of Centrelink fraud, general fraud or types of credit card ‘skimming’ and credit card fraud.
It 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.
I’ve been charged, what do I do?
It 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 are classed as dishonesty offences. They are taken very seriously by the Courts and Police.
The legislation relating can be extremely complex and it is highly recommended that you consult a lawyer if you have been charged, are accused of being an identity thief or have other criminal charges against you.