Identity theft? Your personal information is like gold – it needs to be well secured

22 Apr

Gold is a lot of things, but it’s not the most valuable thing you can own. What could be more valuable than gold, you ask – palladium perhaps? True, but the most valuable thing to you, after your family, is your personal information, that’s what!

When criminals start mining your data they are not hunting for your gold; they’re hunting for your personal information for the purpose of identity theft. The problem is that many people are still unaware of how easily it can happen.

What is identity theft? Identity theft is when a criminal fraudulently uses another’s personal information to make purchases, apply for credit cards, and get loans.

If you have a good credit record and a lost ID, you’re in for a lot of trouble!

Identity theft is easier than you think

Have you ever requested a credit card statement via email and been asked to provide your ID number? Have you emailed a copy of your ID to someone recently? Did you know that all an identity thief needs is your ID number along with some of your personal info such as your address and mobile number, to create fake IDs, paperwork, and complete various online applications?

Identity theft is so serious in South Africa that Carte Blanche did a feature piece on how it happens. And according to the TransUnion credit bureau, identity theft in South Africa is on the rise and consumers need to do more than they are currently doing to protect themselves.

How does identity theft work?

We hear about identity theft from time to time, but how do the criminals actually get it right?

Identity thieves can sell your ID and personal details, along with your credit profile for as much as R3 000.

When an unscrupulous individual wants to buy a luxury car, open a cell phone contract, buy groceries, or apply for an instant cash loan, they will need to prove a good credit rating, provide proof of address, copies of bank statements, and have a positive ID. Thank you Mr Smito – all of this can be created by simply acquiring your ID number. It’s a scary reality!

What to do when your identity is fraudulently used

If you detect that fraudulent purchases are being made on your behalf, here’s what to do:

  • Contact the South African Fraud Prevention Service to start an active investigation.
  • Write an affidavit detailing the situation and open a case at your local police station.
  • Get in touch with the companies that the criminal has racked up bills with. Explain the situation to them and ask them to investigate the purchases made.
  • Check your credit profile to ensure that none of your details have been changed. You can also ask the bureau to make a note on your profile that there is a suspicion of identity theft.

How to treat your personal information like gold

Want to ensure that your personal particulars never fall into the wrong hands? Here are a few tips:

  • Never leave your ID, driver’s license, mail, or statements lying around.
  • Shred all documents containing your personal details before you throw them in the bin.
  • Ignore those “Congratulations! You’ve won a prize!” text messages.
  • Don’t provide personal information to anyone that makes an unsolicited call to you. If you need the service, but don’t trust the contact you have received, contact the company directly yourself.
  • Check your bank accounts regularly to ensure that no unusual purchases have been made.
  • Don’t be caught out by phishing and digital banking fraud – no bank will ever ask for your password along with your personal details.

The time to take better care of your own identity is now. Follow the above tips to minimise the risk of becoming an identity theft victim and be sure to backup all your personal data securely, online.

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