Your tax file number (TFN) is used to identify you in your dealings with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and will usually stay the same for life. It's an important part of your identity and should be kept safe.
Never quote or give out your TFN unless there is a good reason, such as completing a tax form or opening a bank account.
Only certain people are entitled to ask for your TFN including the ATO, Centrelink, your superannuation fund, bank or financial institution, and your employer (but only after you have started working for them).
Your TFN should never be used to establish or confirm your identity with other organisations.
Keep your personal details secure, including bank account passwords and your TFN. Report the loss or theft of your TFN or other identity documents without delay.
- carry them in your purse, wallet or in your mobile phone
- share them with your friends (including on social networking sites)
- give your TFN until after you've started a new job
- throw away documents with personal details on without shredding or destroying them
- use your computer to go online without installing up-to-date security software
- give your personal details to an organisation you don't know and trust
- use an unregistered tax agent to complete and/or lodge your tax return.
The identity information that can be useful to offenders includes:
- date of birth
- current address
- bank account numbers
- credit card details
- driver's licence details
- passport details.
Guard this information carefully and only give it to people you trust or organisations with a legitimate need for the information.
Be careful of what you talk about in public. Identity thieves can obtain a lot of information about you by listening to your mobile phone calls and your conversations with your friends.
Never reveal personal or account information over the phone unless you are absolutely certain the person is genuine. Identity thieves sometimes trick you into providing details by claiming that you have won a competition, or by alleging to represent a charity and asking for a donation. This shouldn't be done over the phone as there is no way of knowing who the caller actually is.
Don't store your TFN or your ATM PIN in your mobile phone.
Identity thieves go through bins for your personal information. You can easily protect yourself from identity theft by shredding or destroying documents which contain sensitive information. These include your credit card number, and other personal information (for example, bank account statements, anything with your date of birth).
Keep your personal documents in a secure place. Don't carry documents such as your birth certificate or passport in a wallet or handbag unless you need them.
Never leave registration papers, expired driver's licences, utility bills or spare house keys in the glove box of your car (even locked).
Use a locked mailbox or a post office box if you regularly receive large volumes of mail.
Job ads and employment scams
When looking for work, be aware of job and employment scams. They can appear as emails, advertisements on noticeboards or online. They can be fronts for money launderers, and some are only there to ask for your personal or financial information so your identity can be stolen.
Warning signs that a job offer might not be genuine include:
- it seems too good to be true
- promising guaranteed income, no interview required
- claiming that you can make a lot of money easily using your computer.
- asking you to pay a registration or up-front fee (for 'processing')
- only needing you to transfer money for someone else
- asking you to supply any of the following information
- home address
- bank or credit card details
- driver's licence or passport information
- non work-related information (your appearance or marital status)
- other personal information that isn't immediately relevant to the job.
Don't assume that just because an ad claims to represent a company that it actually does. For example, big companies usually don't include hotmail or other free email addresses in their ads. If you are concerned, always check.
- Don't click on any links in the ad or email.
- Look the company up in the White Pages and call to ask about the job.
- Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software to protect your computer.
See our online security page for tips on using computers safely and information about genuine ATO email and SMS campaigns.
Banking and cards
The Protect Your Financial Identity website has useful and up-to-date tips for protecting your financial identity.
Lodging income tax returns
Only a registered tax agent can charge you a fee for preparing and lodging your tax return. You can confirm that they are registered by checking on the Tax Practitioners Board website.
If you are a low income earner you may be eligible for help from a Tax Help community volunteer. To find out more, phone us on 13 28 61 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.
If you ask a friend or relative to help you prepare your tax return, check all the details before your return is lodged and make sure that you collect all your tax paperwork for safe storage at home.
Credit reporting agencies
A person's credit rating is the history recorded by credit reporting agencies. These agencies keep a record of loans applied for in your name, and whether you repaid them in full or defaulted. The agencies provide information about your credit history to credit providers and businesses when you apply for more loans or credit cards.
A victim of identity theft may find they no longer have a good credit rating that took years to build up. If a stolen identity is used to take out a loan or credit card without repaying, it can ruin your chances of being able to obtain finance for many years.
You are entitled to access your own credit file, although there is usually a fee involved. Checking your credit reports once a year will alert you to all credit applications made in your name, including those you may not be aware of. If you find fraudulent activity on your credit file, you can prevent possible further misuse of your identity.
Some credit reporting agencies provide a service where you can subscribe to be notified of any changes to your file.
Veda Advantage - contact details at www.mycreditfile.com.au
Dun and Bradstreet (Australia) Pty Ltd - contact details at www.dnb.com.au
Tasmanian Collection Service for Tasmanian residents - (03) 6223 5599.
To report misuse of a TFN, phone 13 28 61 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.
If you think that your information might be at risk, and you might become a victim of identity crime, we can also help.
We can monitor the use of your TFN and give you a new one if we agree that it has been compromised.
We've published advice on what other action you can take, including steps to recovering your identity, at Identity theft - help from the ATO.
- Using another person's TFN, misusing yours or allowing it to be used by others, and 'buying' or 'selling' a TFN are all serious crimes which can result in heavy fines or jail.
- If you have legitimate access to other people's identity details, including their TFN, you must keep that information secure.
For more information, refer to:
Other government agencies
The ID Theft Booklet - Protecting your Identity is available from the Attorney-General's Department website.
Tax Practitioners' Board
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - Spam home page - information on spam, codes of practice and how to report spam emails.
Cybercrime - Australian Federal Police information about crimes committed directly against computers, and the use of technology to commit traditional crimes.
Stay Smart Online - The Australian Government's cyber security website on how to protect your personal and financial information online.
Scamwatch - a site to help you recognise, report and protect yourself from scams.
Foreign language assistance
Our Keep your TFN safe postcard is available in 13 languages, with information on helping to prevent identity crime.
Copies of the postcards are available from online ordering at any time. Take note of the reference number (NAT or JS number) to help your order.
Last Modified: Friday, 21 December 2012