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Identity crime

Last updated 15 April 2020

Your personal information is the key to your identity. Protecting your personal information is just as important as locking your front door.

Do you know what you need to protect and how? Watch our video and make protecting your personal information part of your day.


Media:Protect your personal information Link (Duration: 1:55)

What is identity crime?

Identity crime happens when someone uses a stolen, manipulated, or assumed identity to commit fraud or other crimes. It can involve creating a new identity, false identity, or using stolen information to impersonate someone else.

Criminals can start using your identity with some basic details, such as your name, date of birth, and address. If your identity is stolen, it can take years to fix and you could face financial problems. You may also have problems getting a job, a loan, renting a house, or applying for government services or benefits.

Identity criminals take other people's details by:

  • stealing purses, wallets, mail or mobile phones
  • sifting through rubbish
  • asking for your tax file number (TFN) as part of a fake job recruitment process
  • reading what you have shared on an online social networking site
  • asking questions while pretending to be from a government department or bank and offering to help you complete a tax return or other official document
  • luring you to click on a web link or email that captures your details.

Criminals can use your stolen identity to:

  • live in Australia as a citizen
  • access your bank account and shop using your credit card
  • avoid paying tax, child support or Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayments
  • steal your superannuation
  • apply for a government benefit
  • sell your house
  • avoid court appearances or jail.

ATO tips for protecting your identity

1 Know what to protect

Your personal information is the key to your identity. Do you know what you need to protect and how?

Personal information includes your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • current address
  • bank account numbers
  • credit card details
  • tax file number (TFN)
  • drivers licence details
  • passport details.

Media:Protect your personal information Link (Duration: 1:55)

2 Should you share your information?

  • You should only share your personal information with people you trust, or with organisations with a legitimate need for the information.
  • Identity thieves can sometimes trick you into providing details by claiming that you have won a competition, or by claiming to represent a charity and asking for a donation.

3 Store personal information in a secure place

  • Avoid carrying documents such as your birth certificate or passport in a wallet or handbag unless you need them. Don't store personal information, such as TFNs, passwords and pin numbers, in your mobile phone.
  • Never leave registration papers, expired drivers licences, utility bills or spare house keys in the glove box of your car, even when it is locked. Use a locked mailbox or a post office box if you regularly receive large volumes of mail.
  • Shred or destroy documents which contain any personal 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.

4 Starting a new job

Only give your TFN to a new employer after you have started the job.

Look out for employment scams – these scams are only there to steal your personal and/or financial information. These advertisements can appear as emails, advertisements on noticeboards, or online. They can also be fronts for laundering money.

Warning signs that a job offer might not be genuine include:

  • promising guaranteed income, with no interview required
  • asking you to pay a registration or upfront fee (for 'processing')
  • claiming that you can make a lot of money easily using your computer
  • 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
    • drivers licence or passport information
    • TFN
    • non work-related information, such as your appearance or marital status
    • other personal information that isn't immediately relevant to the job.

Simply because an advertisement claims to represent a company does not necessarily mean that it does – for example, established and/or large companies do not use free email addresses in their advertisements.

If you are concerned, always check, and:

  • don't click on any links in the advertisement or email
  • take the extra step of looking up the company’s official details on White Pages and call to ask about the job.

5 Never share your TFN on social media

  • Your TFN is yours for life. Only certain people are entitled to ask for your TFN, including the ATO, other government departments, such as Centrelink, your superannuation fund, bank or financial institution.

6 Change any passwords you have shared

Passwords should be unique to you. The best way to protect yourself is to never share them. But if you have shared your passwords, be sure to change and update these regularly.

7 Protect your computer and phone

Take the time to install up-to-date security software on your computer and phone.

8 Ensure your tax agent is registered

You can check in English if your tax agent is registered on the Tax Practitioners Board website at Link

Remember, only a registered tax agent can charge you a fee to prepare and lodge your tax return.

How we can help you

Report the loss or theft of your TFN without delay.

  • If you have lost your TFN and do not suspect misuse, phone us on 13 28 61 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.
  • If your TFN has been stolen or misused, phone us on 1800 467 033 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.
  • If you do not speak English well and want to talk to a tax officer, phone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 for help with your call.

If you think that your information might be at risk, and you might become a victim of identity crime, we can also help by monitoring the use of your TFN.


  • 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 the identity details of other people, including their TFN, you must keep that information secure

See also:

For more information in English, look for the following pages on

For more information about tax and super in your language, visit