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Identity security

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.

DVS commercial service

On Monday 5 May 2014, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, launched the DVS commercial service at the CeBIT Australia Conference.

This fast, secure and trusted way to check identity information is being expanded into the private sector to help businesses better protect themselves against identity crime. The service allows users to perform real-time online checks of the information presented on identity documents with the records of the issuing agency. This service provides a useful tool for detecting stolen and counterfeit identity documents.

For further information see our Document Verification Service page.

Identity crime and misuse in Australia: Results of the 2013 online survey

Identity crime and misuse of personal information affect all sectors in Australia and cost individuals, business and government many millions of dollars annually.

The Australian Institute of Criminology was commissioned by the Attorney-General’s Department to undertake a national survey in 2013 about community experiences of identity crime and misuse.

Key findings from this survey showed:

  • almost one in 10 people experienced misuse of their personal information in the previous 12 months, and one in five people experienced misuse of their personal information at some point in their lives
  • 5 per cent of people experienced identity crime or misuse resulting in a financial loss in the previous 12 months.

These findings indicate that identity crime has become one of the most prevalent crime types affecting Australians.

For further information see our Trends in identity crime page.

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.

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.

Biometrics

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.