To Catch a Thief

27 June 2016

Readers may remember the early 2000’s movie where DiCaprio, plays Frank Abagnale in Catch Me if You Can. Abagnale relies on confidence scams, identity thefts, impersonating an airline pilot and conferring with surgeons. Tom Hanks eventually catching up with DiCaprio’s Abagnale after he realised the error of his ways, assisting to catch other scam artists.

In real life, I am starting to see clients who have been the victim of real life identity theft. With social media and the rise of the digital age, it is becoming a more common event.

Identity theft is using the identity information of another person to pretend to be them. This can have serious impacts on people’s lives, especially if the person assuming your identity – is of a particularly doubtful character.

Identity means those things about you that business and government use to establish who you are. The factors that make up your identity include your full name, your date of birth, your place of birth and your current address. These things are precious!

The examples I have seen including hacking into someone’s facebook pages to leave seriously damaging comments, on a continued basis to applying for someone else’s driving license and then using that document to commit other frauds and crimes, including telling the Police that you are the other person when being arrested for a crime.  There is nothing worse than being expected to front up for a crime that you know nothing about.

The Department of Internal Affairs has a list of very helpful information on their website about what New Zealanders can do to protect your identity information.

These helpful tips include:

Be careful with your identity information, how much you give out and who you share it with.

Keep key documents that are used to establish your identity (e.g. birth certificate and passport) in a safe and secure place. Shred or burn bank statements, electricity bills and any piece of correspondence with your name and address on it.

That goes for electronic records too, remove all personal information from computers before you dispose of them.

You can request an access register from Births, Deaths and Marriages at the Department of Internal affairs.

This is a free service that allows people to find out who has applied to access their records (whether someone has requested a certificate) since 25 January 2009.

Credit reports from Dun & Bradstreet or Veda are also important tools. You can (for a fee) request that any changes to your credit report are emailed to you.

In serious cases of identity theft you should seek help from a lawyer experienced in this type of area, as soon as possible.

The message is that small steps can protect you from real life Frank Abagnales.


Rachel Scott is an Associate in the Court & Disputes team at Norris Ward McKinnon. Contact Rachel at [email protected]

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