Tourist's warning after 'very concerning' find on duty-free receipt

A Perth man has warned other holidaymakers to check their duty-free receipts after he nearly threw his away with several key details on it.

Colin Ahearn was en route to Phuket when he and his wife, Tracy, stopped in transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport where they decided to take advantage of duty free and purchased a couple of bottles of spirit.

Arriving at their holiday destination and making their way to their hotel room, Mr Ahearn was just about to throw away the shopping bag with the receipt in it before his wife pulled him up on it.

She urged him to check the receipt, with a shocked Mr Ahearn finding key personal details on his receipt including his full name, date of birth, passport number as well as his flight details after handing over his travel documents to make the purchase.

A photo of a Perth man's duty-free receipt from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which sparked a warning about identity theft.
A Perth man's receipt from Kuala Lumpur International Airport included several of Colin Ahearn's personal details. Source: Supplied

“To say I was totally gobsmacked, and let’s face it, pretty pissed off is an understatement,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

Mr Ahearn, who runs a Facebook page warning visitors to Bali about the dangers of methanol poisoning from bootleg spirits on the holiday island, shared a video warning others about unwittingly discarding their personal details, which could easily be found.

“Digital identity theft is a serious game. With just this one receipt and a quick scan of someone’s Facebook page, they could sign up for a mobile contract in your name, apply for credit cards and who knows what else?” he said.

Mr Ahearn said when he posted the video, he was overwhelmed with the online response, with many people also revealing they had their details printed on receipts from various airports across the world.

The frequent traveller said he couldn’t remember how many duty-free bags he’d thrown out with the receipt inside and worried what hotel staff might have managed to get their hands on.

“Let’s not hand the room cleaners of the world our most valuable private information from the one document that very few people should have any knowledge of,” he urged.

A photo of Colin Ahearn, with wife Tracy, during their trip to Thailand sat on an empty plane. While en route to Phuket, Mr Ahearn discovered his personal details printed on a receipt he was about to throw out.
Mr Ahearn (left) with wife Tracy during their trip to Thailand. Source: Facebook

Experts warning over identity theft

Identity theft expert Lachlan Jarvis, who is managing director of Lyonswood Investigations & Forensic Group, told Yahoo News Australia travellers needed to be constantly aware of anything that could compromise their personal security.

“[The receipt] is really very concerning I would think because if that isn’t discarded properly or the person doesn’t appreciate the risk if someone is to go through a rubbish bin then its certainly the case that those details could be useful [for identity theft],” he said.

Mr Jarvis said scammers would be able to take the details on the receipt and, with additional personal information available online, easily commit identity fraud by taking out credit cards or by starting a phone contract for example.

“The problem is once the cat is out of the bag those details tend to stay out there,” he said.

Mr Jarvis said there was particular concern for those falling victim of identity theft while on holiday.

“It’s very dangerous when someone is known to be overseas,” he pointed out.

While travellers can be vulnerable to burglaries when information is passed on that residents of an address are abroad, Mr Jarvis said there was a series of scams people performed on holidaymakers’ friends and family.

An identify theft expert has warned people to properly dispose of their duty-free receipt. Pictured is a duty-free hall at a Spanish airport.
Duty-free shopping can prove costly if the receipt isn't looked after. Source: Getty

He said there had been a recent spate of incidents where Facebook accounts had been compromised and scammers would send messages to contacts requesting money for an emergency situation.

Mr Jarvis said it was essential all receipts were looked after to minimise the risk.

“[People should be] very, very careful about letting a receipt out of their sight. It should be placed in a safe or copied onto a home storage system and then destroyed,” he said.

If travellers believe they are a victim of identity theft, they should immediately try and identify the culprit to minimise the risk.

If not possible, Mr Jarvis advises to immediately pull down any information online that would accelerate the process of identity theft.

It is also key to contact banks and telcos, and ensure those entities know your details have been compromised.

According to the Australian Federal Police, identity crime sets Australians back $1.6 billion each year, with about $900 million lost by individuals through credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.

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