It is the theft and use of personal information used to identify people. It can include the theft and use of information of persons either living or deceased.
Identity theft happens in many ways. It can be by somebody using your credit card details illegally to make purchases over the internet or telephone, through to having your entire identity taken by another person to open bank accounts, take out loans, make tax returns and conduct other business illegally in your name.
Identity theft can happen easily. For example, you could have your credit card details stored illegally when you make a purchase, lose your wallet or other personal effects, or have them stolen.
You should report all instances of identity theft or fraud to your local police, even if only small amounts of money are involved. Depending on how your identity has been used, you may need to contact a number of other organisations. These could include Australian state and local government agencies, finance providers such as banks and credit unions, utility providers and retail stores.
Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department's Identity Security website
The Australian Police Forces brochure Identity Crime - When Bad Things Happen To Your Good Name (pdf)
Births Deaths & Marriages website - Safeguard your identity