Identity theft and related crimes are increasingly common, and it has never been more important for everyone to review their privacy practices. We all need to make data security a priority, and it should be the first thing we think about when using or disclosing any personal information.

Most people already know about taking steps like making sure their software and systems are up to date:

  • Using antivirus and firewalls,
  • Updating privacy settings on devices or websites,
  • Protecting passwords,
  • Using multi factor authentication, and
  • Watching out for suspicious emails or texts.

If you need help with any of the above points, then the Office of the Information Commissioner has some great information at For Individuals - Privacy Awareness Week ( and some great tips in 'Tips for protecting data'. 

As our data becomes more prevalent online, it is worth looking at some areas that can trip you up or expose your data in more detail.

Spotting scams

Some scams are very convincing and almost impossible to tell apart from real communications. Cyber criminals are getting more sophisticated at this, so we need to lift our game and get better at identifying, avoiding, and reporting them.

Scammers can use pop-up special offers or prizes and even computer safety warnings to gather personal information, trick you out of money, or install malware. Businesses are also under attack by scammers using tools like business email compromise and supplier invoices with substituted payment details to steal information or redirect payments.

Watch out for the following markers of a possible scam:

  • Authority – the source is someone official
  • Urgency – you need to respond quickly
  • Emotion – it plays on your feelings
  • Scarcity – offering something desirable but hard to get

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Protect yourself by looking for independent confirmation by checking details on the official company website or contacting the sender using a contact number from an independent source.

There is a range of helpful advice online about recognising and reporting scams. Find out more at Recognise and report scams | and Protect yourself from scams | Scamwatch.

Public Wi-Fi risks

Public Wi-Fi hotspots might be convenient and save on mobile device data charges but can pose a serious risk to your data security. Take the following steps to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi:

  • Check the name - Don't let your device automatically connect to the first wireless network in the list. Hacker’s wi-fi hotspots often have names similar to real wi-fi hotspots.
  • Avoid sensitive transactions - Avoid conducting sensitive transactions like online banking, confidential emails, entering passwords or credit card details. Consider using your mobile phone network instead (e.g., 3G, 4G, etc).
  • Dig yourself a tunnel – if you are a regular public Wi-Fi user, consider setting up a personal Virtual Private Network (VPN) account to create a secure connection (or ‘tunnel’) to send all your web traffic through.
  • Watch your back – check for someone looking over your shoulder or who can see the details on your screen. Buy a privacy filter, a film that sticks to your device screen to block it from anyone viewing it from the side.

The Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland has information on these and other public Wi-Fi security tips online. Find out more at Privacy and using public wi-fi hotspots.

Being too social

Think carefully about what information you share, who you share your information with, and how. Cyber criminals can use information from your social media posts and interactions to compile a detailed profile about you, who your friends and family are, where you work, live, places you go, products you buy and more.

This information helps them target you, your friends and family with phishing or other scams. These details can also be added to your other identity data that may have been stolen in earlier data breaches, allowing criminals to impersonate you more effectively.

You should be careful not to post details or upload photos that show where you live, your phone number, or car registrations. Always review and update site privacy settings (do not just accept the defaults) and make sure that you fully log out of your accounts after using them on shared devices.

For more information on safely connecting with others online refer to Connecting with others online |

If your data security is breached

Even with all possible precautions in place, your data may still be compromised. The most important thing to do when this happens is to act quickly to change passwords, secure accounts and contact regulators and other parties who need to know, so that any damage or risk is minimised.

This may include contacting:

You may also need to continue to protect yourself from identity fraud by being alert for scams or suspicious activity on your accounts and credit report.

Take action

Prepare yourself by reviewing the resources in this article to ensure that your data is as secure as possible and that you are familiar with the correct actions to take if you are involved in a data breach. This could make a massive difference to you by preventing data exposure or by minimising risks after a breach has occurred. Let’s make it as difficult as possible for cyber criminals to access and steal our data.



Privacy Awareness Week (

Privacy and using public wi-fi hotspots | Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland (

Managing your privacy online | Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland (


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