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Medibank and Optus hacks serve as timely reminder to check your credit score

Peter Terlato avatar
Peter Terlato
- 5 min read
Medibank and Optus hacks serve as timely reminder to check your credit score

Australian businesses and consumers have been victimised by a slew of high-profile data breaches in recent months.

Hackers who stole the personal information of 9.7 million current and former Medibank customers in October have threatened to release the data after the health insurance company refused to pay a ransom demand, ABC reported.

In the same month, Woolworths Group subsidiary MyDeal found that 2.2 million customers data had been exposed when its customer relationship management system was accessed by a compromised user credential.

In September, Optus suffered a massive cyber attack which affected around 9.8 million past and present customers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that more than five million emails and tens of thousands of documents, including the details of 35 Australian Federal Police (AFP) operations, were hijacked in August.

Australian Clinical Labs (ACL) took months to publicise that the data of 223,000 people had been illicitly accessed and some of it posted to the dark web. ACL said the breach, which occurred in February 2022, affected its subsidiary, Medlab, and included leaks of medical and health records, credit card numbers and Medicare numbers.

Optus offering support for victims

Optus customers affected by the recent data breach have been offered a complimentary annual subscription service to monitor their credit information and protect against identity theft.

In an update pertaining to the cyberattack that occurred last week, Optus revealed that the telco was offering the “most affected current and former customers”, whose information was compromised, a 12-month Equifax Protect package at no cost.

Equifax Protect is a credit monitoring and identity protection service that can help to reduce the risk of identity theft.

Although no passwords or financial details were seized in the attack, information which may have been exposed included customers’ names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, and, for a subset of customers, addresses and ID document numbers, such as driver's licence and passport numbers.

Affected customers will receive a unique code from Optus which will enable them to activate their subscription via Equifax’s Optus page. Existing Equifax customers affected by the attack must cancel their current subscription and re-register as a new customer, using a different email address, to receive the complimentary review service.

Preventative measures: Check your credit score

The Optus hack is a blunt reminder that your personal information is constantly at risk of exposure in the digital age. Optus’ customer network comprises almost 10 million Australians. That’s around 40 percent of the total population.

Performing regular credit score checks is a sensible, preventative measure to monitor whether someone has illicitly used your personal information to obtain a line of credit.

Your credit score helps lenders determine whether or not you’re an equitable borrower. If your details are used to procure a loan, this may negatively impact your credit rating and borrowing capacity.

RateCity offers an efficient and safe way to check your credit score for free. Simply fill out a short form and you’ll receive your credit score from one of the world’s largest credit reporting agencies, Equifax. This inquiry won’t affect your credit score.

You can also sign up for email alerts to notify you of any changes made to your score, which may be particularly helpful for Optus customers affected by the data breach, by downloading the app for either iPhone or Android.

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Increased threat of scams following data breach

Australians lost more than $205 million to scams during the first four months of this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch. The consumer watchdog warned of the potential for increased scam activity and identity theft, listing steps you can take to protect your data:

  • Secure your devices and monitor for unusual activity
  • Change your online account passwords and enable multi factor authentication for banking
  • Check your accounts for unusual activity such as items you haven’t purchased
  • Place limits on your accounts or ask your bank how you can secure your money
  • If you suspect fraud you can request a ban on your credit report

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has provided advice for those current and former customers who have been affected by the Optus attack, while the ACSC’s 1300 CYBER1 hotline also provides advice and referral information to those impacted.

Other reputable sources for information and assistance with regards to identity theft include Moneysmart, ID Care and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

How to impose a ban on your credit report

If you suspect that you've been, or are likely to be, a victim of fraud, you can request a ban on your credit report. Taking this action will prevent credit providers from accessing your credit report as part of a credit check.

While the ban is in place your credit information cannot be disclosed by a credit reporting body. Credit providers won’t be able to see credit reporting information without your written permission.

If you’re considering placing a ban on your credit report it is important to do so with each credit reporting body in Australia, which are Equifax, Expirian and illion.

However, regularly checking your credit score might be a more proactive and practical way to monitor for unauthorised activity. It may also encourage you to take steps to improve your credit rating so that you're better placed to negotiate future financining requirements.

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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