Finding purchases or transactions on your bank statements that you cannot explain? Receiving credit cards or statements for accounts that you never applied for? Denied credit for a purchase, even though your credit record is clear? Chances are that you’ve become one of a growing number of South Africans who have become victims of identity theft – and you need to act quickly to limit the damage.
Identity theft can include medical, financial and personally identifiable information. Thieves can use this information to open new credit card accounts, steal from existing accounts, sell information and identities on the dark web, and commit other types of crimes. Key elements that attackers target to steal personal information and identities include social media accounts, bank accounts, names, addresses, birth dates, and driver’s licenses.
According to TransUnion research, nearly half of South African consumers have either fallen victim to identity theft or know someone who has. The problem with identity theft is that you typically only find out about the theft months later – by which time fraudsters could have obtained false lines of credit and racked up significant debt in your name.
If you think your identity has been stolen, TransUnion advises the following:
Report the theft
|●||Immediately report the identity theft to the SAPS, and the company, bank or financial institution where the fraud occurred.|
|●||For insurance fraud, contact your insurance company, and let them know that your identity has been stolen.|
|●||Contact the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) by SMS’ing ‘Protectid’ to 43366, free of charge. SAFPS will contact you and help you register for a Protective Registration or Victim of Impersonation listing.|
Freeze your accounts
|●||Make sure you close your existing bank accounts, as well as the bank accounts opened by the thieves. Get new accounts and PINs.|
|●||Notify credit reporting agencies like TransUnion, who will block any further credit applications made in your name.|
Protect your identity
|●||Change your login and passwords for all your online accounts – not just the affected ones. In fact, one of the best ways to protect your identity is to change your email and online passwords regularly.|
|●||Be wary of emails and offers from unknown senders. No, you don’t have a billionaire uncle overseas who has been searching for you for years and has finally found your email address.|
|●||It sounds extreme, but if the details of your vehicle have been compromised, consider changing the registration number of your car by changing ownership, which will also give you new number plates. You should also consider renewing your driver’s licence.|
Keep checking your transaction alerts
|●||The best way to check if your identity and credit is safe is to check your bank and card statements and credit reports. Fraudsters are especially active at a time of crisis.|
Click here to read the TransUnion press release.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Next week we will be sharing more tips about staying safe and secure online.