A senior intellectual property lawyer recently discovered her name was being used as a RealMe Login by China based fraudsters.
RealMe is managed by the Department of Internal Affairs. The sorts of things people can do with RealMe Login include logging in to StudyLink, Work and Income, The Companies Office, Council Services and Online Passport services.
Users can also get photo verification through RealMe, providing them with digital identification, meaning they can apply for student allowances and loans, open bank accounts, enrol to vote or apply for a first time adult passport.
Rachael Koelmeyer is a Senior Associate at intellectual property law firm Ellis Terry.
She doesn’t have a RealMe Login but that didn’t stop someone from creating one in her name.
“I don’t have a RealMe Login, but someone has picked up my name and used it to create their own,” she says.
RealMe Login is different to The RealMe Identity Verification Service in that with RealMe Login there is no identity verification process associated with a userID and password.
How Ms Koelmeyer discovered her name and professional details had been compromised was through some statistical reviews on the intellectual property office that were being undertaken by a personal assistant employed by the law firm she works at.
“My name came up and was listed as an agent but not attached to anything where I had done any work for those particular clients,” she says.
Ms Koelmeyer’s day to day work includes trademark searching, trademark application recommendations and advice both for local clients and international clients coming into New Zealand.
“I’d speculate that the nature of my work may have led to my identification being used. We do a lot of overseas cost estimates for people wanting to secure trademark registrations into New Zealand. Quite a few of these inquiries do come from countries such as China which turns out to be the country of origin for this particular issue,” she says.
'Agent' for baby food and e-cigarettes
Details provided to the Law Society revealed the Chinese organisations had Rachael Koelmeyer listed as acting as the agent for the creation of various trademark registrations and applications, such as electronic cigarettes, counterfeit false coin detectors, oil refining machines, baby food, non-alcoholic beverages and a wide range of other products.
“I’m identified as a lawyer and by having my name as an agent it is suggesting that I am providing a legal service as an agent for these parties in creating trademark registrations for them,” she says.
Rachael Koelmeyer is not and has never provided any legal advice to these organisations whose addresses are listed as in Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Shanghai.
Upon realising her name was being used fraudulently, Ms Koelmeyer immediately contacted the Intellectual Property Office New Zealand (IPONZ).
“My name has since been removed as their agent for the trademark registrations. Our own investigation found that the RealMe Login was created in May 2016,” she says.
Ms Koelmeyer is warning other lawyers that work in a similar field, they could be vulnerable to a similar scam.
“When somebody makes an inquiry about the services you provide, it’s a really easy way for them to identify that you exist and that your identification is there and is potentially able to be misused in this way. To stop this occurring, there should be a high level of verification by RealMe. I’ll be extremely vigilant going forward,” she says.
But according to the Department of Internal Affairs, which manages RealMe the identity theft that Ms Koelmeyer experienced is highly unlikely to be an issue with RealMe.
“A RealMe logon could have been created using a stolen identity and that would be a criminal offence. Help and advice for those affected by stolen identities is available at ID Care. A RealMe logon is not proof of identity so services using the RealMe logon are required to manage their service/identity risk and apply any necessary checks,” the DIA says.