According to TransUnion, a South African credit bureau, identity theft costs consumers between R1 billion and R5 billion per year. It highlighted that the Fraud Prevention Association “has predicted a ten percent rise in the number of identity theft cases this year to over 11 cases every day.”
Following the recent hijacking of a courier van that held the personal documents of 200 people applying for visas for the United Kingdom, TransUnion has provided tips to help consumers avoid becoming victims of identity theft.
Salem Dyafta, consumer brand manager at TransUnion noted: “There is no question that the people whose documents including payslips, proof of address and passports were taken in the visa hijacking, are at enormous risk of having their identities cloned and debts being run up in their names.”
According to Dyafta, in some ways the victims of the hijacking are fortunate as they know that their documents have been taken and can therefore take all necessary precautions to ensure that their identities are not cloned and that debt is not incurred in their name.
However, Dyafta highlighted that identity thieves can clone your identity with a single document that contains your personal details. “There have been cases of individuals who, having lost an ID book, or a payslip, have found out only years later that their identity had been used to open accounts and accumulate debts they never knew about.”
“Most victims of identity theft have no idea that their identity has been compromised until it is too late and an enormous amount of damage has been done. You need to be able to detect, quickly, whether your identity has been compromised,” added Dyafta.
According to Dyafta, one way that consumers can detect identity theft is to regularly review their credit and personal information for any signs of suspicious activity.
In addition, you can also sign up for a service such as TransUnion Credit Alert, which alerts you when a credit check is carried out under your name. At the time of writing TransUnion has slashed the price of its ‘Credit Report Plus Alerts & Score’ from R319 to R280 per year. Alternatively, if you want to keep a watch on your credit report on a monthly basis TransUnion can send it to you at R40 a month. Remember, you get one free credit report from each credit bureau a year. To get your free report from TransUnion, click here.
“When anyone applies for credit from any credit or service provider, an enquiry on that person’s credit report is made at a credit bureau.
“A TransUnion credit alert advises subscribers via email or SMS that such an enquiry has been made. If the subscriber has not applied for credit, the alert will warn that something is amiss and the consumer can then take action to limit the damage,” explained Dyafta.
Tips to avoid identity theft
TransUnion have highlighted that in many cases people are not aware of how the criminals attained their information. However, the increase in the number of electronic transactions that people carry out is aiding in the growth of identity theft.
TransUnion provided several tips to help consumers avoid becoming victims of identity theft.
- Keep all of your sensitive personal documents, including financial documents such as payslips and bank statements in a safe, secure, locked place.
- Shred personal and financial records before throwing them away.
- Be mindful while using the internet. Install a virus-protection on your computer.
- Only visit trusted websites.
- Do not respond to unsolicited requests for information.
- Do not share personal data such as date of birth and physical address on social media sites.
- Watch out for anyone standing too close to you when you are entering your pin at an ATM.
- Don’t hand out your personal details to anyone.