Protect yourself against identity theft
Do you guard your personal information and documents like your ID book, passport, credit cards and driver’s licence closely enough? If not, you could become one of the thousands of South Africans that are falling prey to identity theft on a daily basis.
While no firm figures exist, experts estimate that identity theft costs South Africa more than R1-billion every year.
According to the SA Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) – a non profit organisation that works to combat fraud, identity theft and financial crime – reports of identity theft grew 120% last year compared with the previous year, while overall fraud against retailers and banks increased 23% over the corresponding period.
No doubt the best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to make sure it doesn’t happen. These simple steps will go a long way to protecting you :
( Try to only use your own computer for Internet banking and avoid ‘vulnerable’ machines like those at internet cafes. Also exercise caution when logging onto Internet banking at hotspots.
( Keep a record of your accounts and follow up if they do not arrive on time.
( Protect your post from theft – clear your letter box regularly and arrange for someone else to collect your post if you are going to be away. If you move, immediately change your address on all your accounts.
( Do not use predictable passwords like your date of birth or telephone number.
( Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the post or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact. And, even when dealing with contacts you know, before you disclose any personal information, to anyone, find out how it will be used and whether the information will be kept confidential.
( Keep items with personal information in a safe place. Tear or shred documents such as credit applications, old bank statements and receipts.
( If you have service work done at your home or employ outside help, do not leave personal information lying around.
( Give your ID only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identification when possible.
( Request a copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those transactions you have authorised.
( Beware of scam emails (phishing) whereby fraudsters attempt to gain access your confidential information. This is done either by an email request for information or by luring you to a fake website.
( Believe it or not there is a ploy – known as social engineering – whereby criminals befriend unsuspecting people and trick them into revealing passwords or other information. Never reveal your passwords to anyone!
If you suspect that you have become a victim of identity theft contact the SAFPS on 0860 10 1248 or visit their website at