In the age of online shopping and internet banking, we need to take time to learn more about how to prevent identity theft.
No one wants to discover that their identity has been stolen by opening an SMS and finding out that a stranger has depleted thousands of hard-earned rands from their bank account.
Whether you’ve experienced it personally or want to take some measures to avoid it, we’ve got you covered.
How to prevent identity theft and the next step to take if you are a victim:
Precautions you can take to avoid identity theft:
Keep your information private
This seems obvious like an obvious point but we’re often quite happy to hand over credit cards or banking information to trusted friends and family.
While we doubt your mom will run off with your life savings, having your private information with multiple people or on multiple devices isn’t safe.
Make sure that cards are returned and any information is deleted immediately after use to prevent them from getting into the hands of someone untrustworthy.
Set up notifications
When account information is stolen, it may take hours or even days before it is noticed and at that point, you may have lost thousands of rands.
Set up payment notifications on your phone so you’ll be informed when money is drawn from your account. Rather get an SMS every time you grab a coffee before work than try to pay for petrol only to have your card be declined for insufficient funds.
Complicated passwords & pins
We know it’s the easiest number to remember but don’t make your ATM pin your birthday. Also, using password123 as the login for your internet banking isn’t the smartest idea.
The more complicated a password is, the safe your account will be. Avoid obvious things like pet names and add numbers and symbols as well. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe that only you will have access to.
One card policy
As a precaution, have a dedicated card and account exclusively for online purchases. By doing this, any debits coming off this card will be separate from the rest of your money.
Be sure to only transfer enough money for purchases and avoid leaving large amounts of money sitting in that account. This way, if someone does manage to hack your account info, all your savings won’t be at risk.
Use trusted sites
Just because there is a 30% discount on swimwear from questionableonlinestore.com, doesn’t mean you should hand over your credit card information.
When shopping online, only use websites and stores that are trustworthy with a good reputation. Do a bit of research and check out online reviews before shopping on any website. This will minimize the risk of your information being stolen.
What to do if you are an identity theft victim:
As soon as you realise that your account has been hacked, call your bank immediately.
If any documents have been stolen, call your insurance provider as well as any other companies in which you have accounts open to inform them of the situation.
Cancel all affected accounts
Close any affected bank accounts, cancel the cards and apply for replacements. The sooner you do this, the more damage can be prevented from happening.
Register lost and stolen documents
If documents like your ID, driver’s licence or passport have been lost or stolen, report them to Home Affairs or the Traffic Licencing Department as soon as possible.
The South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS) can also assist with registering any documents that have been stolen.
You can also report suspected fraud on their helpline: 0860 101 248
File a police report
Go to your local police station and file an identity theft case with them as soon as possible.
Make sure you have all the details so you can give an affidavit and be sure to keep a copy of the report and report number. You may need this in order to cancel your bank or other accounts as the companies could require proof.
This case can also be used in the event that the identity thief is caught and can be used to charge them with fraud and/or forgery.
Even once you have done all of the above, keep an eye on your credit report in case any new accounts have been opened in your name without your knowledge.
Make sure your computer firewall and malware is up to date to protect your information while using online banking.