Identity fraud is one of the many common types of fraud to which an unsuspecting citizen can fall prey.
We found out exactly what constitutes identity fraud, how you can protect yourself from it, whether you can be covered in the event that it occurs, and what you should do if you lose your ID.
READ MORE: How to protect yourself from financial fraud
What is identity fraud?
According to Tania Abbotts, attorney at Hammond Pole, “Identity fraud occurs when a person loses their ID or it is stolen, and then that ID is used by a third party without the victim’s knowledge in the commissioning of various crimes.”
Abbotts notes that identity fraud can affect a person in the following ways.
- Legal status: If the third party requires marriage to gain citizenship and resorts to identity fraud to achieve this end, the victim may end up legally married to that third party.
- Financially: The victim’s identity information, such as their name or ID number, could be used to open various bank accounts where credit or loans are granted.
- Tax: The third party could use the victim’s identity information to submit fraudulent tax returns and harvest illegitimate refunds.
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How can you protect yourself?
Abbotts recommends implementing the following measures to protect yourself against identity fraud.
- Perform regular credit checks. This enables you to confirm that all registered credit against your name is legitimate.
- Keep track of your marital status at Home Affairs to ensure it is correct.
- Keep track of your annual tax returns. Ensure that only one tax return has been filed in your name and that your employer is the only employer listed.
Abbotts says, “The key to avoid being a victim of identity fraud is to be aware of any suspicious activity, and ensure that anything out of order is reported without delay.”
Can cover be provided?
It’s standard protocol to insure your assets and personal items in case of theft, but can insurance cover you in the event of identity fraud?
Abbotts explains, “Depending on the provider, personal liability insurance can offer you protection. Once again, the circumstances applicable would vary according to the insurance company.”
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Is your ID missing? Here’s what to do:
Abbotts suggests you take these steps should you lose your ID, or if it gets stolen.
- Immediately report the loss or theft to the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) on 011 867 2234, or email them at email@example.com. They will advise the members on their database (including all major financial institutions in South Africa) that your ID has been compromised and that they should take extra steps to confirm your identity. This is a way to afford you some protection.
- You can also complete an affidavit at your nearest SAPS, explaining that your ID has been stolen or lost, in case you become a victim of identity theft. This can be crucial when attempting to dispute a bank account that has been opened due to identity fraud.