Identity theft – the fraudulent, criminal practice of using another person’s personal information to obtain credit or loans – continues to be a major problem in South Africa. Just last year, 3 600 cases of fraud were reported, and the number is expected to rise.
The good news is that it just takes a little extra vigilance to prevent the crime of identity theft from happening to you. We’ve put together some tips that can greatly minimise the risk of criminals getting their hands on your personal information:
Carefully dispose of expired cards and expired ID items, such as passports and driver’s licences, so they cannot be reused.
When you receive a new bank card, sign it immediately and ensure it’s linked to your self-service banking and activated for MyUpdates.
Report any suspected fraudulent activity on your accounts to your bank immediately to stop your cards.
Never write your PIN number on your cards or where they are stored, and never leave your ID documents where they can be stolen.
If you experience any suspicious breaks in cellphone communication, this may be related to an unlawful sim swap, so report this to your mobile service provider and bank.
If you suspect that your financial information has been compromised, don’t delay – the sooner you act, the better. The South African Fraud Prevention Service (Helpline: 0860 101 248) suggests you follow these three steps:
Contact the fraud division of the major credit bureaus and ask them to place a ‘Fraud Alert’ in your file, as well as a request that creditors call you before opening or changing accounts.
Contact your creditors for information if you suspect your accounts have been tampered with, and ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department about disputing any fraudulent transactions.
File a complaint with the police and complete the ID Theft Affidavit.
While anyone can fall prey to fraud or loss, being vigilant can minimise the damage, if not prevent it completely. If you suspect foul play, act immediately - it’s better to overreact than suffer the consequences of being a victim of fraud.