Creepy discovery on parking fine


There's nothing worse than opening your mail to see the words "PAY NOW" in obnoxious blue capitals.

It's a sinking feeling many of us have felt, before we start racking our brains about where we've parked over the past few weeks and how stupid we were to have been caught out.

But a penalty notice that arrived in my mailbox last week, telling me I'd ignored a no parking sign, was irritating on a whole other level.

The main problem being, I don't own a car and I'm not even listed on anyone's insurance. I know, I'm 30 and I need to get my act together.

But, when looking up the details of the offence, I found images of a large grey Kia I'd never seen before with a GoGet car share logo emblazoned on the side.

It had been dumped unceremoniously next to a barbed wire fence in a back lane in Randwick, in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

I hadn't even been in Sydney at the time.

The Kia was parked illegally in Randwick back lane.
The Kia was parked illegally in Randwick back lane.

This set in motion a string of phone calls to Revenue NSW, GoGet and NSW Police, who told me my identity had been stolen and used to take out the mystery car.

Filing a statement at the police station, I was worryingly told that this happens "all the time" and because the perpetrators sign up to car share services with a mixture of stolen and fake information, they are almost impossible to catch.

So whoever has done this, still has all my information and there's no way to know what they plan to do with it next.

And, if that parking officer hadn't have stumbled across the Kia in Randwick, there's probably no way I would have found out.



What's more broadly concerning about this is how easy and common this type of offence appears to be.

Recent estimates by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department indicate that identity crime costs Australia upwards of $1.6 billion per year, with the majority ($900 million) lost by individuals through credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.

It says identity crime continues to be a key enabler of serious and organised crime, which in turn costs Australia around $15 billion annually.

I hadn’t even been in Sydney at the time of the offence.
I hadn’t even been in Sydney at the time of the offence.

But the true extent of identity theft is hard to know as most victims, like me, do not know they are victims until their personal information has already been used, if at all.

And for those victims, knowing someone is out there pretending to be them can be highly distressing.

"Your identity is one of the most valuable things you have. Being able to prove who you are is important for most aspects of your life - from getting a home loan to starting a new job to buying something online," said NSW's Financial Crimes Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett.

"Your identity can be stolen if criminals gain access to personal documents, such as your passport, driver's licence or utility bills.

"We know mail theft is the start of a greater fraud problem and once your identity has been compromised, it is a difficult process to reclaim it."

The Australia Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) most recent research on identity theft shows that 126,300 Australians experienced identity theft from 2014-15.

Roughly a quarter of victims had their identity stolen over the internet and a quarter of victims were not aware of how their information was stolen.



Officers from NSW Police's Fraud Squad say there are a number a measures you can take to protect yourself against identity theft.

Police say identity theft victims can be left highly distressed. Picture: iStock
Police say identity theft victims can be left highly distressed. Picture: iStock

They recommended you should:

• Consider purchasing a locked mailbox or convert your current mailbox to a lockable style.

• Clear the mail daily.

• Have mail held at the Post Office or collected by a friend when away for extended periods.

• Dispose of unwanted mail in a way that no one else makes use of it i.e. shredding.

• Ensure your mailbox is in good condition.

• Make sure your mailbox is large enough for the mail to be dropped into secure section and do not allow letters to be overflowing.

• If mail is delivered incorrectly, write 'delivered to wrong address" on the front of the envelope or if the addressee does not live at your address write "not at this address" and return to Australia Post.

It's also important to call the police if you think you've been a victim, because the ABS research shows only 16 per cent of incidents are reported to police.

In relation to what happened to me, a GoGet spokesman told us they looking into it.

"We take identity theft very seriously, and we work closely with police if a matter like this arises. We are limited in what we can say regarding the current issue because it is still under investigation."

NSW Police are also investigating.

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