How to reduce your risk of identity theft

By Harper Banks

Imagine your friend decides to check up on their credit report, and they find that their credit score has dropped significantly, even though they have diligently paid their bills. 

It’s possible that they are a victim of identity fraud. In this article, we have a look at what this entails, and we find out what you can do to avoid getting into this situation yourself.

Log in to CreditSav today to make sure your credit score hasn’t taken a sharp dip – it’s free.

What is identity theft?

Sharon Knowles, CEO of Da Vinci Forensics, says that any theft of personal information is known as identity theft. This includes details such as usernames, passwords, and PIN numbers.

“In some cases, criminals assume your identity and use social engineering to gain access to your bank accounts and conduct transactions. The sad thing is that it goes under the radar until people start receiving calls for outstanding accounts or their application for credit has been denied,” says Knowles.

She points out that identity book fraud is one of the largest identity theft methods, and banking fraud is also very popular. She explains that the latter involves your data being compromised on your device, usually through a phishing email.

“Another way of obtaining your personal information is through collecting your discarded bank statements and financial documents from the rubbish,” says Knowles.

She says that the following kinds of identity theft are also well-known in South Africa:

  • Driver’s license identity theft: When a criminal uses your driver’s licence to take out a new credit card or a personal loan in your name.
  • Medical identity theft: When someone uses your medical aid or hospital plan information to access healthcare services.
  • Sim card swap: Criminals use fake identity documents to pose as the legitimate cell phone account holder, and request a sim swap to get access to more of your personal details.

“Fraudsters use a combination of forged documents when they steal your identity, including falsified employment information, forged payslips, and falsified qualifications,” says Knowles.

For example, Knowles refers to a woman who was unhappy with the service she received from a company. Following this, an “employee” of this company reached out to assist her. The woman was glad to be assisted, and she gave all her details to the alleged company representative. But instead of helping her, criminals were able to open an account with her details.

READ MORE: If someone had your medical aid details, could they benefit in your name?

How to report identity fraud and reduce your risk  

Knowles says that it's extremely important to report fraud to the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS). You can reach them via their helpline, 0860 101 248.

“If your ID book and other sensitive documents have been lost or stolen, register them with the SAFPS by phoning 011 867 2234, via email, or their online web form” says Knowles.

She makes the following suggestions to keep your personal information safe:       

  • Keep your personal information secure – for example, keep your ID Book and passport in a safe
  • Use paid-for internet security software, such as antivirus software
  • Shred all financial and personal documentation before throwing it in a dustbin
  • Manage what you share on social media and ensure that your network settings are secure
  • Use two-factor authentication on accounts and devices
  • Lock your devices with a PIN code or use biometrics
  • Check your credit record every six months through a credit bureau

Alternatively, check your credit report through CreditSav. The more often you do this, the better.

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