Simple precautions can be taken to lessen the risk of identity theft.
Simple precautions can be taken to lessen the risk of identity theft. DAVE HUNT

123456 is password to identity theft

TRULY, I despair. Despite all the publicity about internet scams, I nearly fell over when I read this week that "123456” is still the most popular password.

Why not just put your money in a brown paper bag at the front door with "take me” written on it?

We are increasingly managing our money online, using personal data to complete digital transactions.

This data has real market value for cyber crooks, and with Privacy Awareness Week running from May15-19, now's the time to consider how well you're protecting your personal information from thieves.

Almost one in 10 of us experience misuse of our personal information each year, and 5% of people lose money as a result of identity crime.

A report by the Attorney- General's office found Australian identities sell for surprisingly little on illegal online marketplaces. A bank login and password is worth about $500. The asking price for credit card details is about $1000. These low prices reflect the ready availability of this type of highly personal information among cyber crooks.

Armed with personal data, crims can access your bank account, take out loans in your name or commit welfare or tax fraud. Falling prey to the bad guys can cost you dearly. Victims of identity theft are left out of pocket by an average of $3696. In some cases losses have exceeded $500,000.

Cyber crooks typically get hold of personal details by hacking our computers or via email, social media or scams. So have the latest security software installed on all your digital devices including computers, tablets and phones.

When you're setting passwords for devices or online accounts use a mix of numbers, letters and special characters. A US survey found a handful of commonly used passwords make up 17% of all passwords.

Using woefully simple passwords just makes it easier for crooks to steal your personal details. And when you're online, reject offers by websites to remember your password. Login afresh each time you visit a site and logout when you're done.

It also helps to make a habit of regularly checking out the Scamwatch website (

It's an easy way to know what to be on the lookout for when you're online. If you think you have become a victim of identity theft, contact your financial institution immediately.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.