What are identity crimes?
In the digital age, our identities are more vulnerable than ever before. With a few clicks of a mouse, a thief can steal your name and other personal information. Once they have your identity, they can use it to commit a wide range of crimes, from opening new credit accounts to taking out loans in your name.
Identity theft is a serious problem in Victoria, Australia. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has received a rising number of reports of identity theft. Thus, cyber defence must be a priority for all Australians.
Under the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria, identity theft is classified as an indictable offence, which means that the severity of the penalties imposed will depend on the nature and extent of the crime.
There are three main offences related to identity theft under the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria:
- Making, using, or supplying identification information: 5 years imprisonment.
- Possession of identification information: 3 years imprisonment.
- Possession of equipment used to make identification documentation: 3 years imprisonment.
This article will discuss sections 192A to 192E of the Act which provide for the specifications of the offences related to identity theft in Victoria.
Section 192A: Definitions
Before we delve deeper into what identity crimes are, take a look at the definitions of the following terms under section 192A:
- Identification documentation – These are documents or other thing that:
- Contains or incorporates identification information
- Is capable of being used by a person for the purpose of pretending to be, or passing themself off as, another person (whether living or dead, or real or fictitious).
- Identification information – This is information relating to a person (whether living or dead, or real or fictitious) that is capable of being used (whether alone or in conjunction with other information) to identify, or purportedly identify, the person, being information such as:
- a name, address, date of birth or place of birth;
- information as to the person’s marital status;
- information that identifies another person as a relative of the person;
- a driver licence or driver licence number;
- a passport or passport number;
- biometric data;
- a voice print;
- a credit or debit card, its number or data stored or encrypted on it;
- a financial account number, user name or password;
- a digital signature;
- a series of numbers or letters (or both) intended for use as a means of personal identification;
- an Australian Business Number within the meaning of the A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 of the Commonwealth
Section 192B: Making, using or supplying identification information
Section 192B makes a person guilty of this offence liable to a level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum) if:
- The person makes, uses or supplies identification information (that is not identification information that relates to that person).
- The person is aware or aware that there is a substantial risk that, the information is identification information.
- The person intends to use or supply the information to commit an indictable offence, or to facilitate the commission of an indictable offence.
Moreover, a person may be found guilty of an offence against this section even if the commission of the indictable offence is impossible. Another important thing to remember is that it is not a defence to a charge for an offence against this section that the person to whom the identification information relates consented to the making, use or supply of the identification information.
Section 192C: Possession of identification information
Under section 192C, a person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years if:
- Such person possesses identification information (that is not identification information that relates to the person).
- Such person is aware that, or aware that there is a substantial risk that, the information is identification information.
- Such person intends to use the information to commit an indictable offence, or to facilitate the commission of an indictable offence.
Section 192D: Possession of equipment used to make etc. identification documentation
Section 192D provides that a person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years if:
- The person who possesses equipment that is capable of being used to make, use, supply, or retain identification documentation.
- The person intends to use, or who intends that another person will use, the equipment to make, use, supply, or retain identification documentation.
- The person intends to use any such identification documentation to commit an indictable offence or to facilitate the commission of an indictable offence.
Moreover, section 192E states that the attempt to commit identity crimes under sections 192B, 192C, and 192D are not punishable. Thus, for the offender to be criminally responsible, the act of committing identity crimes must be executed.
How Can You Avoid Identity Theft?
Identity crimes can cause significant financial and emotional harm. Here are some steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from identity theft in Victoria, Australia:
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication to secure online accounts.
- Be careful what you share on social media and limit the amount of personal information you post online.
- Secure networks and digital devices with anti-virus software and a firewall.
- Regularly check bank accounts for suspicious activity and report any unauthorised transactions to the bank immediately.
- Remove all personal information before selling or throwing away a computer, mobile phone, or other digital device.
- Use a locked mailbox and clear mail regularly.
- Shred personal documents, especially those from banks and superannuation funds.
- Be cautious when using public computers and avoid entering personal information on them.
- Educate yourself and your staff about identity crimes and scams and promote safe cybersecurity habits.
- If you suspect your identity has been stolen, report it to the police via ReportCyber and take steps to protect yourself from further harm.
By following these steps, individuals can reduce their risk of falling victim to identity crimes and protect their personal information.
Criminal Attorneys at JB Solicitors
Schedule a consultation with our criminal defence lawyers at JB Solicitors to discuss identity crimes cases. During the consultation, you can also ask questions about the lawyer’s experience, fees, and approach to identity crimes cases.