1. Introduction - Tips to better protect your personal information

There are a number of ways that you can help keep your personal information secure and protected; both online and offline.

Your personal information can be very valuable, but it can be misused if it falls into the wrong hands. There can be serious consequences if you don't keep your personal information secure, such as unauthorised access to your accounts and even identity theft.

There are many ways in which people can obtain your personal information for criminal purposes, such as 'phishing' emails, scam phone calls, breaking into your home and stealing your personal documents or stealing your private mail from your mail box.

Whilst many of the useful suggestions set out below may already be common knowledge, it is useful to periodically remind ourselves and those close to us about updating privacy and security controls.

2. Keep your personal information under lock and key and destroy documents containing personal information when you no longer need them

It is a good idea to keep valuable documents such as your insurance policies, birth certificate, marriage certificate, will, drivers licence, passport, credit card and bank information under lock and key in your home (e.g. in a safe).

It is also sensible to keep all PIN's, passwords, access codes and other "keys" to your personal information secure to ensure that unauthorised people cannot get hold of them.

Consider giving a copy of your important documents to a trusted family member, friend or lawyer especially if you are going overseas.

It is also important to keep your post box locked to keep your mail confidential. If you are going to be away from home for an extended period, it is a good idea to request that the post office redirect your mail. Always be alert for missing mail, such as bills, or 'extra' mail that you did not request – such as new credit cards etc.

It is a good idea to shred documents that you no longer need which contain your personal information such as documents containing your name, address, bank account details, insurance details, or health information.

This includes such things as old credit cards, other bank cards, drivers licenses and passports.

3. Keeping your computers secure and protecting online accounts

Everyday most of us access information from our home computers and laptops. Unless there is a media article about hacking activities, we can forget the importance of staying safe using these devices:

  • Install security software from a verified provider and set it to update automatically
  • Keep your application software and operating system up to date
  • Secure your home and office Wi-Fi with encryption and a strong password
  • Use different passwords for different uses
  • Back up your data regularly
  • Learn about the best way to create and store passwords
  • Do not respond to emails that ask you for a password or financial information.
  • Be cautious of emails asking you to click on links or attachments
  • Do not use public computers for online banking, shopping or other financial transactions
  • Consider subscribing to the Stay Smart Online Alert Service
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever possible
  • Learn about the best way to create and store passwords
  • Consider covering up the camera on your computer when you are not using it

Remember that you can choose which websites you visit and what information you disclose online. You should search for the website itself and not click on links from emails that may not be genuine. This includes search engines that may present links to websites that are not genuine.

4. Keeping your smart phone secure

Life without our smart phones within reach is a distant memory for most of us. However this extremely useful communication device contains a vast amount of information about us, where we are located and contact details of family and friends. It is important to stay safe using mobile phones:

  • Investigate anti-virus software to install on your phone.
  • Keep your device's software and apps up to date.
  • Lock your device with a passcode, password or biometric when not in use.
  • Learn about the best way to create and store passwords.
  • Only download apps from reputable publishers.
  • Check permission requests before downloading apps.
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi for online banking, shopping or other financial transactions.
  • Reset factory settings before disposing of an old device.
  • Follow Stay Smart Online on Facebook.

5. Staying safe when using Social networking

Using social networking is a common way for us to keep in touch with friends and family but few of us consider the potential consequences of posting something to social media:

  • Regularly check your privacy settings on social networking sites.
  • Stop and think before you post any photos, personal or financial information online.
  • Be nice online and consider others' feelings and reputations.
  • Report or talk to someone if you feel uncomfortable or threatened online.
  • Use strong passwords and a different password for each social networking site.
  • Don't share your passwords with anyone.
  • Follow Stay Smart Online and The Cloud: Dream On on Facebook.

A good password should be a mix of numbers, letters (upper case and lower case) and characters. It is a good idea to use different passwords for logging into different sites and to change your passwords regularly. Do not carry your passwords around with you in your wallet or bag.

For more information on passwords, click here.

6. Children, Teenagers and online safety

It is important to educate kids to the dangers of giving away too much of their private information over social media or the internet. It is also important to help kids understand that the people they are talking to online may not be who they seem. Teenagers in particular often do not consider the risks and potential consequences of uploading communications and images on social media. For example, prospective employers may search on the social media activities of an individual before offering them a job.

More information is available here

  • Talk to your family about the importance of protecting their reputation online.
  • Monitor online activities involving children for whom you are responsible
  • Be aware that some social media terms and conditions require a minimum age prior to becoming a member.
  • Encourage your family to stop and think before they post any photos, personal or financial information online. If the photos are of another person check that they are comfortable with that image being uploaded online.
  • Use strong passwords and a different password for each social networking site.
  • Emphasise the importance of passwords and the consequences of sharing them with friends and partners
  • Many schools have online safety guidance materials which are useful
  • Be aware of the consequences of not turning off the location services on a phone. Generally the location device should be turned off unless there is a good reason for leaving it on e.g. a hiking trip in the bush.
  • Consider downloading the Government's Cybersafety Help Button.

7. Be aware of fakes and scams

Be cautious about requests for your personal information over the internet, phone and/or in person in case it is a scam. Be aware that people may call you pretending to be from the bank or your insurer in order to obtain your personal details. There are also fake email scams, known as 'phishing' which ask you to verify personal details or passwords via an email that looks like it comes from your bank, financial institution or telecommunications provider. These email phishing scams are all about tricking an individual into handing over personal and banking details to scammers. An example of these phishing scams may be including special links in an email to take you to a combination of genuine and fake websites.

If you receive such an email you should report it to Scam Watch and to the Police.

If you are buying goods online exercise reasonable caution:

  • Check quality, warranty and return/refund and complaints policies.

  • Keep your personal details private and secure.

  • Always use a secure payment method.

  • Don't send bank or credit card details in an email.

  • Don't send wire transfers to anyone you don't know and trust.

  • Use strong passwords and locks and change them regularly.

  • Contact your financial institution, selling platform, police and SCAMwatch if you think you've been scammed.

If you think your identity has been misused; you should contact your bank, insurer, or credit union to let them know. You can also report a scam to SCAMwatch on:

8. Know your rights

Consider adding your phone numbers to the Do Not Call Register

You can list your contact number on the Do Not Call Register. Telemarketers and fax marketers must not contact you once your number is listed on the register.

Some groups can still contact you after you register. These include charities, research companies, political parties and educational institutions.

More information on the Do Not Call Register is available here.

Consider obtaining the 'Do Not Knock' sticker

You can also display a Do Not Knock sticker on your premises. A salesperson who ignores your Do Not Knock sticker may be considered to have refused your request to leave the premises under the Australian Consumer Law. In this case, a salesman failing to comply with such a request to leave the premises could lead to:

Civil and criminal penalties of $50,000 for a body corporate and $10,000 for an individual; or

Committing trespass

More information is available on their website.


You can report spamming by visiting this link.

9. Stay informed

You can stay updated on new scams to watch out for, developments in privacy law and helpful tips to protect your privacy through the following websites, please note that TAL is not responsible for the content of these sites:

Scam Watch - Identity Theft

Australian Government Privacy Information

Australian Government - Stay Smart Online Week

10. Limitation of Liability and Disclaimer

The information contained in this document is provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be relied upon for any other reason without first independently obtaining relevant professional advice. Nothing in this document should be construed as professional/or legal advice. TAL does not make any warranties or guarantees that following the tips outlined in this document will ensure that your information is protected. TAL is not liable for any direct or indirect damage and/or loss arising out of or in connection with the use of and/or reliance on any of the information provided in this document.

TAL is also not responsible for any of the information contained on third party websites. TAL does not undertake any obligation to update any of the information contained on these third party websites. TAL does not make any representations or warranties regarding the accuracy of any of the information or content contained on these third party pages. TAL is not liable for any direct or indirect damage and/or loss arising out of or in connection with the use and/or reliance on the information contained on these third party websites.


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