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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Bush fire victims may not realise they’ve been looted for months.

As police patrol Australia’s fire zones on the lookout looters it’s not colour tvs and computers thieves are targeting.

Leading Australian consumer and financial law firm MyCRA Lawyers says identity theft tends to spike in the months following natural disasters, especially where people have had to leave their homes.

MyCRA Lawyers CEO Graham Doessel says most victims won’t realise for months they have been scammed because they don’t realise credit has been taken out in their name, using documents stolen from their home or mail box while they were being evacuated from the fire zone.

“We have seen this after cyclones in particular where people have been unable to return to their homes for months, identity thieves are able to go undetected as they pilfer mailboxes for new credit cards and documents for loan applications, ”Mr Doessel said.

“They don’t even need a driver’s licence, a rates notice, a bank statement and some other bill along with your birthday from your social media profile is probably all that’s required to take out some sort of online loan,” Mr Doessel said.

“We’ve even been contacted by crooks trying to have defaults removed from a victims file so they could take out much bigger loans, the audacity really is quite staggering,” he said.

“A thief with a little bit of experience could rack up tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of hours with the right documents.”

“These often are organized crime gangs that like to prey on turmoil be it floods, fires or cyclones, ”Mr Doessel said.

Identity theft and fraud is fast approaching $3 billion a year in Australia with almost 2 million Aussies falling victim in some way according to ABS figures.

“There really is no depth of depravity and misery these human flotsam aren’t willing to plumb,” Mr Doessel said.

MyCRA Lawyers recommend taking advantage of a free credit check every year to keep track of potential fraud and mistakes on your credit file.  By law, credit reporting bodies must provide you with your credit file for free every 12 months.

If people go to freecreditrating.com.au they can access the various credit reporting bodies for a free copy of their credit file, Mr Doessel said.

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