Identity theft and reputational fraud

Fraud doesn't always mean a direct financial loss. Instead, you could be a victim of identity theft or reputational damage from online activity you can't control, which destroys your credibility.


Identity theft in NZ

Thousands of New Zealanders become victims of the crime of identity theft annually, costing the New Zealand economy over $200 million¹ every year. Victims of identity theft have had their identities stolen, with criminals using others' identities in fraudulent activities.

Identity fraud constitutes the misuse of information, such as your name and address, credit card, passport, or bank account numbers. A person could use this stolen information to order products and services online, set up business trading accounts with organisations or even pretend to be you if the police arrest them!

Identity thieves could even receive government benefits and apply for loans by accessing your personal details, for example:

  • Credit card information and bank account numbers.
  • Name, date of birth and signature.
  • Your personal address.
  • Mother's maiden name (often used to verify your identity).
  • Online usernames and passwords, driver licence and passport number.

Often you can find much of this information with a quick online search. For example, notice how much data is available by looking at your social media accounts or conduct an internet search on your name. Or it could be as easy as someone rifling through your rubbish bins at night to collect discarded information.

Never provide your personal information over the phone, via text message, email or the internet. 

Avoiding becoming a victim of identity theft

You can reduce the chances of identity theft in NZ by:

  • Don't use public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots (even the Koru Club) to access or provide personal information or login to online banking. 
  • Hotspot from your phone instead.
  • Create strong and unique passwords for online accounts and at home.
  • Use 2-Factor Authentication.
  • Always accept any updates to your computer system, as often it includes anti-virus improvements.
  • Any website URL with HTTPS and a closed padlock symbol is more secure when buying online.
  • Try to limit personal information on social media.
  • Be wary of anyone making contact with you that misspells common words or misuses grammar. Especially if they ask for a copy of your passport or driver licence, claim that you have a virus on your computer, you owe taxes, you've won a prize, or there is an incredible free offer - your initial thought was correct - it's too good to be true.

Reduce the potential for reputational risk

Reputational risk is a threat to your brand. Reputation is often compromised by an event that causes a negative public perception or bad publicity.

Examples of reputational risk

  • Your organisation receives low ratings or negative comments from customers inside their social media channels. Their feedback may be untrue or miscommunicated.
  • A business decides to launch a new product to market. To quickly launch the product, the organisation may bypass the usual quality testing processes. As a result, the product gains a reputation for breaking easily, so sales and the business's reputation drops. The product is relaunched after a more stringent quality testing process and is much higher quality. However, sales don't improve as the public now views the brand as cheap and unreliable. 
  • Reputational risk can also occur due to events outside of your control. For example, one of your customer's was the victim of a hacker who stole their private information and published it online. Or a staff member handled a customer complaint poorly, and the customer took that response to the media. 

Mitigate these types of risks to your brand by:

1. Protecting your organisation against data breaches.

Make sure you backup your data, secure your devices and network and encrypt critical information. Read the top 11 cyber security tips by CertNZ. 

2. Being vigilant about customer service mishaps.

Ensure you provide customer service training to all employees to understand the importance of professionally (and successfully) dealing with complaints. Find out what you can and can't do on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.  

3. Ensuring your hiring process contains thorough background checks.

Background checks and other pre-employment checks are wise steps to include in your hiring process. Find out more information about hiring in New Zealand by reading our HR guide

4. Adopting core values into your business that your employee can get behind.

Pick four or five core values that you want your organisations to be governed by. Typical values include diversity, accountability, innovation, passion, integrity and respect. 

5. Having a 'crisis' communication plan.

If your identity or reputation has been compromised, you need to be prepared to respond quickly. Having a crisis communication plan specifically for your organisation is essential. It could be as simple as listing all potential risks with your planned response to address them. 

Next steps

  • If you become a victim of identity theft, contact your local police department to file a police report and change all your passwords and security logins, especially your bank accounts. You may have to cancel some applications and start again. It's a good idea to obtain a credit report to determine how much damage you have incurred. Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or the three leading credit reporting agencies in New Zealand. 
  • Conduct a fraud audit and reduce the amount of information that is in the public domain.
  • If you've clicked a suspicious email link, close your browser and contact us immediately to change your banking password at 0800 803 804. Then, clear your browser history, perform a virus scan, forward the email to us at and delete it.
  • If you've handed over the details of your credit or debit cards, bank log-on, address or bank account number to a suspicious phone caller, call us immediately on 0800 803 804. We'll reset your password or automatically cancel your card and flag your account for caution.
  • If you give any unknown person the PIN to any of your cards, contact us and report it to the police as well.
  • Any New Zealanders who believe they are a victim of identity theft should visit the Department of Internal Affairs website for more information. Or, contact The Privacy Commissioner website for helpful information about how to protect your privacy and comply with the Privacy Act.

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