What’s identity theft?

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares. Someone maliciously steals your personal documents, hacks into your bank account and racks up a huge credit card debt in your name. You’ve just become a victim of identity theft (the stealing of your information) and identity fraud (the fraudulent use of your information to commit a crime). But this kind of thing doesn’t just happen in the movies or bad dreams. It happens to real people every day.

Why should your students care?

Obviously getting your bank account hacked into is a big deal, but there are other inconvenient and sometimes devastating consequences to having your identity stolen. Imagine what would happen if you couldn’t prove you were, well, you? We’re asked to prove our identity all the time. We’re asked for personal information to:
  • open and access bank accounts
  • claim concessions
  • buy things online
  • travel on a plane
  • and so much more!
With someone out there masquerading as you, you might find it difficult to access some of the services you need to, or find yourself in bigger trouble.

The stats

Targeting Scams (PDF, 2MB), the report of the ACCC on scams activity for 2017, identified an increase of 33% (over 2016) in scams activity in Australia.

Interestingly, financial losses remain substantially disproportionate to scam contacts, with dating and romance scams making up only 3% of all scam-related contacts but moving to number one position in terms of financial loss ($25,247,418).
The top two types of scams reported (as far as total number of reports go) were advance fee/up-front payment scams and phishing/identity theft scams. Whilst not all scams reported result in a financial loss, the under-18 group had the highest percentage of scam contacts reporting a financial loss.
The ACCC observed a significant increase in phishing and identity theft scams - both areas that the under-18 demographic is highly susceptible to.
Australia’s complex identity management systems mean that around 20 government agencies across Australia manage over 50 million core identity credentials (not to mention credentials issued by the private sector. According to the Attorney-General’s Department, “detecting and preventing the use of false or fraudulent identities in such a dynamic system poses significant challenges for the organisations involved.”

Teach it in the classroom

Curriculum mapping
This topic is linked to the curriculum for: 
  • Year 9 English
  • General capabilities including literacy, ICT capability, critical and creative thinking, and personal and social capability.
Member Resources
Access your complete teacher resource, Topic 5: Identity Theft (part of Module 11) by logging in. Not a member? Sign up for free here.
Open Access Resources
This issue of FLIP (Financial Literacy in Practice) takes your students through the realities of identity theft through interactive classroom activities and helps give them the tools to keep their personal details safe. Teacher notes and solutions are included. 



Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story (2004) is a movie which could be shown in the classroom. It depicts what can happen when a young woman’s identity is stolen. On the other hand, the movie Identity Thief (2013) is certainly not suitable for class room viewing. However, its message is also relevant. Many students will be familiar with this movie, so it could be referred to in a classroom discussion.

For more videos and online resources, see Module 11.