Nicolette Dirk, finance writer, Justmoney
Recent statistics from the South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) showed that 23% of all fraud cases filed at its offices are linked to impersonation.
According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), the theft of personal information, otherwise known as identity theft, is one of the leading contributors to successful fraud.
SABRIC added that personal information can be used by criminals to assume your identity and get your retail or bank accounts, or even defraud your insurance, medical aid and UIF.
In light of the rise in identity theft, Warwick Scott-Rodger, head of brokers at MUA Insurance Acceptances, said South Africans should ensure they are financially protected against any losses suffered as a result of their identity being unlawfully used by another party.
Stay safe the smart way
In an effort to combat the growing problem of identity theft and fraud, the Department of Home Affairs introduced smart identity cards that use modern biometric technology to record a wide range of personal details on a memory chip.
The information stored on the new smart identity cards includes a person’s marriage licence, drivers’ license and personal identification.
Scott-Rodger said that while this is a positive step to reducing fraud, consumers still need to remain vigilant and protect themselves against the financial risks of having their identity stolen.
“In order to reduce the financial risks of identity theft of the kind of information stored on the new smart identity cards, consumers need to ensure that they have proper insurance cover in place.
Cyber liability and online identity theft is increasing globally. This seems to be the newest form of White Collar crime, which is why it is vital that consumers constantly protect all personal information,” he said.
Am I covered for identity theft?
While most personal insurance policies do include identity theft cover automatically, Scott-Rodger advised consumers to speak to their insurance provider to enquire whether such cover exists in the current policy and to what extent the consumer is covered.
Depending on the policy, identity theft is extended under the personal liability section of a personal insurance policy, however, other policies may have separate sections that provide different benefits in the policy (for example -where you will be covered for more than just the legal costs, which could also include any other costs incurred while trying to clear your name).
“While you may have some level of protection in your insurance cover, not all policies are the same and you may be exposed to additional financial risk if you do not have adequate cover in place," said Scott-Roger.
This cover will protect you in the event of becoming liable as a result of a third party unlawfully using your personal information, which could include the use of identity books, passports, drivers licences, bank details and municipal account.
“Consumers are able to protect themselves against the risks of identity theft that could result in substantial financial loss.
This can include keeping important documents in a safe place, having limits on bank accounts, shredding old documents and cards which are no longer in use, changing passwords regularly and ensuring that no personal information is too detailed on social media platforms,” said Scott-Rodger.
SABRIC’s also has its own tips on protecting yourself against identity fraud:
• Do not disclose personal information over the internet or telephonically, without knowing exactly what it will be used for.
• Consider what you disclose via electronic media – personal profiles on your business site, social networking, chat rooms etc.
• Do not carry all your identification documentation with you, unless absolutely necessary. Generally, only one form is necessary for day to day activities, so lock the rest away securely.
• Take care of your filing. Documents can be stolen from your, car or office without you being aware that they are missing or have been copied.
• Transunion ITC and the three credit bureaus in South Africa will give you a free credit report on your birthday. Use the report to check whether anyone has been making enquiries about you, which may be an indication that your details have been used without your authorisation.