Very often we hear of people who have had money stolen from their cards or had their cards cloned. Identity theft comes in many shapes and forms, so you need to be aware and extra careful so that you aren’t caught out. There are several ways to minimise the risk of being defrauded.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when someone obtains personal information (credit card, ID number, online banking details etc) and they are able to carry out certain activities in your name. Usually people are none the wiser, until months later, when bills for items they didn’t purchase come up. It may take a very long time for someone to figure out what’s happening if they don’t have a firm grasp on their financial matters.
There are many ways in with fraudsters can use your personal information. Below we discuss the types of fraud that can be carried out and what you can do to reduce the chances of your being a victim.
Identity thieves will usually use your details for the following:
- Obtain false passports and other official documents under your name.
- Take out a loan, open an account or buy goods in your name.
- Fraudsters may also take out a contract phone using your name.
- Hijack your accounts and bring your life to a standstill.
This is just a small list, but such things can have a very detrimental effect on your life. You can use the following tips to help you stay on top of your financial matters.
- Change your passwords frequently and make them complicated. Avoid using words that can be associated to you, your name, family, dog etc. Use special characters and numbers in your passwords but don’t ever use 1234,0000,1111 etc.
- Do not ever give your banking details to a source that is not trustworthy. Don’t shop from dodgy online stores, always use a secure site.
(Look out for a green padlock before the url, the address should also begin with ‘https’ instead of just ‘http’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.) You can find more tips here.
- Avoid using public computers to access your private banking, emails where banking alerts are sent etc. If you must, be sure to log out and clear your information.
- Be careful at ATMs and make sure your ATM pin is hidden.
- Keep withdrawal limits at a minimum and only adjust if you need to withdraw a certain amount. Most banks allow you to increase your withdrawal limit for a day.
- Make sure you have activate SMS and email notifcations from your bank so that you can track any suspect activity on your accounts.
- Check your credit scores regularly. Whilst you are entitled to a free credit score, it will not give you the details of accounts. You’ll pay a small fee but it’s worth it because at least you have a close eye in your report and picking up any fraudulent activity will be easy.
- Don’t throw away important documents without destroying them completely. Shred, burn, soak in bleach till the ink comes off etc. Just make sure the document and the details on it are destroyed completely.
- Never respond to emails or SMSes from your bank requiring you to confirm your account by responding with an ATM PIN, online login details etc. It’s always best to go into the branch or call the bank to be on the safe side. DO not respond to emails offering you a prize or money in exchange for personal details, especially if you didn’t enter any competitions.
- If you get a call from a company that you have not dealt with previously and they try and solicit personal details from you, take their number, verify their details and call them back. Tread carefully. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t let excitement or desperation lead you into a big mistake.
- Be sure to change your address with institutions when you move.
- We have an ongoing problem with people who are “married” to strangers. It’s always a good idea to check your marital status regularly to see if you are still ‘home affairs single’. You can find instructions on how to check your marital status below, or check the Home Affairs site here.
I’m a victim of fraud. What now?
If you do pick up suspect activity has been conducted using your name, or your wallet/bag has been stolen, these are the steps you should take:
- Call the bank and cancel your cards. Be sure to report any and all suspicious activity carried out on your credit card or debit card to your bank so that they can investigate it. Don’t put this off.
- If you are a victim of fraud outside your bank cards (false contracts etc) notify the institutions concerned so that they can suspend activity on their side.
- If it’s an item you’d like to contest on your credit report, contact the credit bureau you obtained your score from and lodge a dispute with them.
- Report stolen items to the police and open a case. Get an affidavit to record that your items were stolen and you have reported the matter.
- You should also make use of the South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS). Report your case to them and get a protection registration letter so that you have proof that your are a victim of fraud. This is handy especially if you still need access to credit.
South African Fraud Prevention Services: 0860 101 248
ABSA Fraud Line: 0860 557 557
Capitec Fraud Line: 0860 102 043
FNB Fraud Line: 087 575 9444
Standard Bank Fraud Line: 0800 222 050
If the bank you bank with does not appear above, visit their website. Contact details should be easily available.
Be extra vigilant and very careful with your personal details. Don’t take pictures, screen grabs etc of personal details or your credit card and post them online. You might be super happy that you finally got your American Express or Diners Club card, but there’s really no need for the internet to be blessed with your card number or card details. Don’t do it.