Our identity can be one of our most valuable assets, yet it is something that many people can take for granted.
The effects of identity crime can be felt long after the crime has occurred and can be financially, emotionally and even physically stressful. Victims of identity crime can find it very difficult to re-establish their identities, their credit histories and reputations.
Identity security promotes the ability of individuals, businesses and governments to trust and have confidence in the identities of people with whom they interact. This is central to Australia's national security, law enforcement and economic interests, particularly as people, businesses and governments conduct an increasing amount of their communication and transactions online, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the digital economy.
Promoting identity security also supports efforts to protect people's privacy and do not come at the expense of enabling people to remain anonymous or use pseudonyms, where they have the right to do so.
A shared responsibility
Australia has a complex, national identity management system. Rather than a national identity card, around 20 government agencies across Australia manage over 50 million core identity credentials, in addition to a comparable number of credentials issued by the private sector and other organisations.
Millions of these identity credentials are issued, renewed and revoked each year as people are born, become adults, get married, migrate interstate and internationally and die. Detecting and preventing the use of false or fraudulent identities in such a dynamic system poses significant challenges for the organisations involved. Identity security is, by its nature, a responsibility that is shared across all parts of the Australian community.
Australians use a variety of credentials to prove their identity. Most of these are issued by government agencies. These can include documents such as a driver licence, Medicare card, passport, birth certificate or a citizenship certificate. The responsibility for the integrity of each of these documents lies with the issuing agency.
Any organisation which collects, stores or handles Australians' personal information, whether it is a government agency, private sector business or other non-government organisation, has an important role to play in promoting identity security. Further information is available from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Protecting your identity
We all need to accept some responsibility for protecting our own identities to help avoid becoming a victim of identity crime. This means being aware of the ways in which scammers and other criminals try and obtain our personal information—whether online, over the phone, by mail, or in person—and being careful in how we store and choose to share this information.
For tips to help you protect your identity, visit the Protecting your identity page.
Recovering your stolen identity
If you know or suspect that you have been a victim of identity crime you should contact your local police and report any stolen identity documents or cards to the government agency or company that issued them to you.
For further information see our Recovering your stolen identity page.
Trends in identity crime
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has rated identity crime as a key enabler of serious and organised crime, which is estimated to cost Australia $15 billion annually. The ACC has also assessed that the threat from identity crime is likely to increase over the next two years.
Recent surveys indicate that between four per cent to seven per cent of Australians become victims of identity crime each year. This is over 700,000 people, more than are affected by many other forms of personal crime.
For further information see our Trends in identity crime page.
National Identity Security Strategy
The Council of Australian Governments has endorsed a National Identity Security Strategy to ensure Australia's approach to identity is ready to meet the opportunities and challenges presented by the digital economy and respond to the rapidly evolving nature of identity crime in Australia.
The strategy outlines the objectives and guiding principles of a collective national approach to ensuring that all Australians can enjoy the benefits of a secure and protected identity.
For more information visit the National Identity Security Strategy page.
Document Verification Service
The National Document Verification Service is a key element of the National Identity Security Strategy. The service is a secure, electronic, online system that can be used by government agencies and private sector businesses to check, in real time, whether an identity document is accurate and up to date.
The Australian Government is working to improve biometric interoperability across government agencies. The government guides and controls how agencies use biometric information, such as fingerprints and facial scans. This can help national security and law enforcement agencies fight crime, while maintaining strong safeguards to protect the privacy of Australians.
Identity security better practice resources
Through the National Identity Security Strategy a number of standards and better practice resources have been developed to promote better practice approaches to identity security across the identity management continuum—from initial identity verification or proofing of a person's identity, to issuing and managing secure identity credentials, to maintaining accurate, high quality identity records.
Designed initially for government agencies, these standards and guidelines may also serve as a benchmark for private sector organisations, particularly those providing identity related services to, or in conjunction with, government agencies.