CANBERRA, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- Identity crime is costing Australia more than 1.5 billion US dollars every year, a report has revealed.
The Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia report, released by Australia's minister for Justice Michael Keenan on Wednesday, revealed that Australians lost 1.6 billion US dollars from identity theft in the financial year ending in 2015.
Keenan said 290 million US dollars was spent by the government trying to prevent identity theft, with driver's licenses and Medicare, Australia's universal health care system, cards most likely to be used in identity crimes.
The report said that one in five Australians had been a victim of identity crime at some point.
"These are sobering figures. But, if you par this with the finding that identity crime is grossly under reported with one third of victims not reporting the crime either because they were too embarrassed or did not know how (or where) to do so the problem becomes even more concerning," Keenan said in a speech to the Biometrics Institute Showcase in Canberra on Wednesday.
Keenan said the impacts of identity theft extended far beyond financial losses.
"Consequences can range from mental health impacts, to wrongful criminalization, to significant emotional distress when attempting to restore one's compromised identity," he said.
In one case outlined in the report, a police operation known as Project Birrie' seized 1700 fraudulent identity items, mostly driver's licenses, from one New South Wales syndicate.
"Project Birrie linked identity fraud to serious and organized crime, including drug trafficking, people smuggling, child exploitation, and even terrorism," Kennan, who is also the Minister assisting Prime Minister (PM) Malcolm Turnbull on Counter-Terrorism, said.
"This is not an exaggeration we know that people previously convicted of terrorism offences in Australia have used false identities to assist in planning terrorist attacks."