New South Wales residents comprise less than a third of Australia’s population, but they’re losing more money to identity theft than all other states combined – making the state government’s launch of a centralised identity theft support service particularly relevant.

The newly launched ID Support NSW service leverages the government’s investment in digital services to save time and effort for victims of identity theft – who, NSW Minister for Seniors Mark Coure said, spend an average of 34 hours talking to different statutory bodies to reclaim control over their stolen identities.

“It can be incredibly distressing having your identity stolen, especially for older Australians who represent 37 per cent of all reported cases,” he said in launching a service that will “help seniors have more of a fighting chance to recover their documents and information.”

By leveraging the state’s ongoing investment in digital government and e-service, Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said the service “takes the pressure away by bringing all the key call points into one location.”

Designed around a ‘tell us once’ case management approach, the service offers identity-theft victims advice about recovering compromised NSW state identification documents – including driver licence, birth certificate, myService NSW, Working with Children Check, and Seniors Card credentials.

A dedicated contact centre will provide callers with access to subject matter experts, with free education and advice to help residents recover if they have been victims of identity misuse.

ID Support NSW adds another port of call for identity theft victims, who are currently supported by services such as IDCARE – an established incident response provider that connects victims with identity and cyber security case managers offering advice about how to deal with compromises.

Global credit-reporting firm Equifax last month launched a new service, called Employee Protect, that enables employers to offer employees monitoring services that can spot when personal information is leaked online.

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Identity theft has emerged as a major ongoing issue for Australians, with loss of finances or personal information noted in over 75 per cent of cases of malicious cyber activity reported to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).

NSW residents reported identity theft losses of $934,200 to the ACCC’s ScamWatch service this year alone – compared to $923,566 across Australia’s seven other jurisdictions.

That’s well behind the $10.2m that Australians lost to identity theft last year, when NSW (with losses of $3.7m) and Victoria ($3.4m) were by far the most-compromised states.

Identity theft affected an estimated 0.8 per cent of Australians aged 15 and older, according to ABS statistics, with personal information exploited in 56.9 per cent of cases to obtain money from bank, superannuation, or investment accounts.

In 16.5 per cent of cases, the perpetrators used stolen identity information to open phone, utility and other accounts in the victim’s name while 7.9 per cent of cases used the data to apply for loans or credit in the victim’s name.

Support services have had their hands full responding to such activity.

In April, for example, IDCARE recently warned 232 Australians and 24 New Zealanders that their personal details had been identified amongst the more than 5,000 driver license, passport, proof of age, and national identity card images compromised in last year’s collapse of cryptocurrency exchange AlphaEx.

In mid-2020, Service NSW was forced to establish a ‘hypercare team’ to support the nearly 200,000 NSW residents caught up in the leak of 736GB of staff members’ email data.

A year earlier, a Melbourne woman was charged after allegedly buying identification documents on the dark web and using the information to steal nearly $2m from victims’ superannuation accounts.