Identity crime and misuse is one of Australia’s most prevalent crimes with an estimated 750,000 to 937,000 people experiencing financial loss as a result, and a total economic impact estimated to exceed $1.6 billion each year.
In 2014 the Commonwealth Government published the National Identity Proofing Guidelines (Guidelines). The purpose of the Guidelines is to strengthen identity proofing processes and increase trust and transparency through a standardised national approach.
Identity Management in Australia
As Australia does not have a single identity card, the country’s identity management system relies on over 50 million proof of identity documents produced by approximately 20 different government agencies. Major contributions to the identity management system are also made by businesses and non-government organisations which issue documents or deliver other services, based on those government documents.
A driver’s licence is the most convenient and widely used identity document in Australia. Driver licences are commonly accepted by Government agencies and the business community as primary proof of identity because they contain a photo of the person, security features, and are issued by a trusted source.
Driver Licensing and Identity Management
Australian driver licensing authorities (DLAs) have for many years had systems in place to check the identity of a person who wishes to be granted a driver licence. These systems together with the physical driver licence product have become increasingly sophisticated over time in the interests of maintaining positive road safety outcomes, including effective on-road enforcement.
Today, because a driver’s licence is the most widely accepted identity credential in our community, DLAs recognise the need to strengthen name based checking processes to protect the community from the risk of potential identity crime created through the production of a fraudulent driver’s licence.
While driver licensing is managed at a jurisdictional level, there are no borders in identity management, and Austroads’ well established one driver, one licence philosophy is consistent with the national approach to identity proofing sought in the Guidelines.
Law Enforcement and National Security
A 2014 study on identity crime found that:
- Each year around 4 to 5% of Australians (750,000 to 937,000 people) experience identity crime resulting in a financial loss
- Identity crime is one of the most prevalent crime types affecting Australians each year
- The price of fraudulent identity credentials suggests they are relatively cheap and easy to obtainPolice estimate 30,000 identity crimes each year, with around 24,000 offences proven guilty in a court of law
- Only a small proportion of victims of identity crime report the incident to relevant organisations
- The estimated economic impact of identity crime in Australia is likely to exceed
- $1.6 billion per year with estimates ranging from $800 million to $4 billion.
The report also found that Medicare cards and driver licences, and to a lesser extent birth certificates, are more likely than other credentials to be used to facilitate identity crime. This is due to a range of factors including Australians’ ubiquitous use of these cards as evidence of identity and the security features of these credentials. This emphasises the importance of verifying the information presented on these credentials with the issuing agency.
The Martin Place siege in December 2014 in Sydney also illustrated issues in identity management. The joint review commissioned by the Governments of New South Wales and the Commonwealth found that the hostage taker interacted with Government agencies under a wide range of identities, aliases and titles. He was able to provide non-formal name details to agencies, indicating that more robust checks on identity are needed in Commonwealth and State and Territory government agencies. The review report specifically recommended use of the Guidelines and the Document Verification Service (see below), and that greater use of biometrics is explored in identity management.
Identity management is a significant contributor to reducing identity crime and strengthening national security. At a special meeting on counter-terrorism in September 2005 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to develop and implement a National Identity Security Strategy which was published by COAG in 2007, and then updated in 2012.
Use of the Document Verification Service to Strengthen Name Based Checking
One of the most notable initiatives of the National Identity Security Strategy is the Commonwealth Document Verification Service (DVS) which is managed by the Attorney-General’s Department in partnership with participating agencies such as Austroads and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The DVS is a secure, national, online system that enables automated checks of the information included on key government documents commonly presented as proof of identity. The DVS helps organisations build greater confidence in the identity of their clients, and so helps protect governments, businesses and Australians from identity crime. The checking available through the DVS is currently being integrated into driver licensing processes throughout Australia.
National Identity Proofing Guidelines 2014 [PDF 1.8MB]
|Austroads Policy Statement | Strengthening Identity Management in Driver Licensing [PDF 345 Kb]|