VICTIMS of identity (ID) theft suffer long term repercussions.
As Mellony Ramalho, Group Executive: Sales, Branch Network African Bank, notes, “more and more people are losing money due to ID fraud. The clever ways criminals carry out this fraud often makes it very difficult to detect.”
While the concept of ID theft was pretty new in the 90s it is a regular occurrence these days. Executive Director for the South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), Manie Van Schalkwyk, claims ID theft in South Africa has increased substantially over the last six years and has become more commonplace with electronic transactions.
“The problem is that victims usually only discover they were the victims of ID theft once they are negatively listed for non-payment of accounts opened in their names or once their credit or loan applications are rejected,” Van Schalkwyk explained.
ID theft normally starts with a stolen or lost ID book. The victim’s photograph is usually replaced with that of the fraudster doing the impersonation.
According to Ramalho, “[suspects] armed with a fraudulent ID book, fraudulent bank statements and so on, can apply for loans, take out contracts or even open fraudulent bank accounts.”
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ID theft won’t cost you in the short term however it is the long-term effect that causes concern. Victims have to be removed from the credit bureau blacklist, prove that the transactions weren’t theirs and, in some instances, even change their ID number.
Ramalho adds, “criminals will do whatever they need to, to get your personal information. Once they set up a fake ID, they look like they are transacting as a legitimate person.”
To protect yourself from identity fraud:
• Do NOT keep any unnecessary personal information in your wallet or purse
• Do NOT give out personal information such as passwords and pins when asked to do so by anyone via telephone, fax or even email
• Do NOT write down pins and passwords and avoid obvious choices like birth dates and first names.
“Don’t use internet cafes or unsecure terminals such as at hotels and conference centres to do your banking and don’t be a victim of dumpster diving, where criminals dig through your rubbish to find personal information. Never throw away documents with your bank account details or other personal information without first destroying the information,” she warns.
In addition, people should protect personal information at all times, check their credit profile at a bureau like TransUnion, Experian, XDS or Compuscan at least once a year, check all requests for personal information and only give it out when there is a legitimate reason to do so and install firewall and antivirus software protection to prevent a computer virus sending out personal information from their computer.
“You must immediately report your lost or stolen ID or driver’s license to SAPS and alert SA Fraud Prevention Service. Let’s get smart and stay ahead of these ID criminals,” advises Ramalho.