The consequences of identity theft can be financially and personally devastating. For those who suffer this terrible fate, the costs can be devastatingly high. Besides losing large sums of money, risking your personal information and creating a series of new hurdles to overcome; many South Africans are being left with bad credit scores and listings at no fault of their own.
With the growing number of scams, fraud and theft putting the identity and finances of South Africans at risk, it is important to know exactly what identity theft entails, how these schemes are conducted and how to spot them before they are successful. There are several steps can be taken by a potential victim to prevent and avoid such scams. By utilising the following advice, South Africans are afforded the power to protect themselves and thwart these nefarious schemes.
What you need to know about identity theft
If you are unfortunate enough to have your personal information stolen by identity thieves, there are serious potential consequences. You have to be able to spot and prevent the tell-tale signs of identity theft as soon as possible. These criminals are trying to get hold of your full name, ID number, financial history and banking information. Once they have this information, they will use it to commit fraud in your name.
These thieves could try to open credit accounts, make large purchases, obtain a loan or buy cellular contracts. They are skilled and malicious, causing you to suffer the consequences of defaulting on those falsified loans and contracts which will result in a judgement against your name. Unfortunately, this has been the point at which most victims realise the trouble that they are in.
How your personal information is being put at risk
The criminals who partake in identity theft have well-established techniques to try and extract personal information from unsuspecting individuals. In their schemes, they will make contact via phone calls, emails and text message in order to make offers that seem to good to be true. The contact will insist that their message requires immediate attention and the verification of specific personal details.
From lost identity cards and driver’s licenses to social media and online banking login details; these men and women will use personal information to pretend they are you. With your name and ID number, South Africans are at risk of these criminals opening various credit accounts and making online purchases.
How to know if you have become a victim of identity fraud
Most victims of identity fraud could have become aware of the scam sooner and many have the chance to prevent the worst consequences. In reality, the unfortunate truth is that these victims usually find out when the theft has already taken place. The time that victims will be made aware of the problem is when their payments or credit requests are declined, they receive a collection notice from a lender or their credit score plummets.
Your credit report – and abnormalities noticed within it – is probably the most effective place to find signs of identity fraud. Other signs are the creation of unknown credit accounts, strange purchases and requests, multiple hard inquiries on your name, dropping of credit scores and defaulting on payments in your name. Your personal bank will also be a good place to discover other pertinent information like unauthorised debit orders, credit history and locations that your money is being spent.
Simple steps to protect your identity
Fraud prevention services, banks and the South African government are all working tirelessly to prevent the growing number of identity theft cases occurring in the country. However, you have the opportunity to become the first line of defence in protecting your identity:
- Do not share any personal information with anyone unvetted and unverified,
- Verify all forms of communication that request personal, banking and other information of you,
- Keep all of your identity documents with you, or in a safe place, at all times,
- Be cautious when setting up logins and passwords for online banking or shopping,
- Make sure to monitor your credit report regularly. Most South African banks provide constant access to your online credit report and purchasing history.
What to do if you suspect identity theft?
If you are one of the many South Africans who are made aware of identity theft after the fact, there are some actions that may help you prevent further damage. The sooner that you are alerted to the fraud, the quicker and better your possible responses are. If you suspect fraud, get an affidavit from your local police documenting your concerns and what you have noticed. Following this, take the affidavit to your banks or lenders and inform them of the ongoing issue in order to prevent further losses. Finally, contact TransUnion and the South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS) to have an alert put on your name and begin the process of catching these identity thieves and bringing them to justice.
If you are looking for the best credit services, financial protections and banking support available in South Africa, contact our brilliant Customer Service team at MarisIT.