I think all of us can agree that 2020 must be one of the weirdest years we have experienced. Not only have we adapted to a new kind of normal where socialising is completely frowned upon, but it has also paved way for the biggest increase in identity theft we have ever seen in one year.
So let’s get right into it.
According to statistics published by the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), identity theft has increased by 337% in 2020 which is shocking. This is mostly due to people working from home, not being on secure systems anymore…. Common, who am I kidding - it’s just fraudsters seeing a gap in the market and seeing new ways to exploit us, hardworking citizens.
According to an article on eNCA:
Perhaps the most concerning statistic coming out of the recent SAFPS report is that impersonation fraud has increased by 337 percent.
“This is extremely concerning. Impersonation fraud is the act of a criminal impersonating another person by stealing their identity and then open accounts in their name. The fraudster has details of the victim and trying to take over account. The credit provider will ask the questions normally asked to the account holder.
"Because of data breaches, this information is available to the fraudster making it easier to take over the account. They then take over the account and leave the victim with massive amounts of debt that they never took out in the first place,”
So now that we know that identity theft is up by 337%, what can we do about it?
Great question, and I have some really solid advice that is pretty easy to follow.
1. Destroy physical mail and documents properly
Make sure you shred and destroy your physical mail and documents properly. That sounds so American right? To put it in south African terms - next time you light up that braai - burn the personal information rather than throwing it in the bin. Here’s why…
When these fraudsters find your personal information in the trash, it’s extremely easy for them to steal your identity and impersonate you. And guess what - it happens every day. Now if you have another way of destroying these documents other and a shredder or fire, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
2. Don't post personal information on social media
Don’t give out personal information on social media. I can not tell you how many times I see public messages all over Facebook and youtube where people are giving out their ID numbers. Just the other day we had a webinar with 400 people online and some dude was posting his ID number in the comment section wanting us to give him a credit report.
That’s the worst thing you can do. Social media is a breeding ground for criminals because of this behavior. If you need to give out personal information (like getting your credit report) make sure you speak to a reputable company and person and make sure that your information is secure. A company like us at My Credit Status is a registered NCR bureau reseller and we undergo monthly audits by independent third parties to ensure our clients’ privacy and security.
3. Get your credit report monthly
Get your credit report monthly. Most people only get their credit reports once a year and then leave it idle for the next 11 months. Let me tell you something - the best way to combat identity theft is to check your credit report monthly. Why? Because you will immediately pick up when there are inquiries on your credit report. When there is an inquiry that was not performed by you, then it probably means that you are being impersonated and left with a mountain of debt.
At My Credit Status we offer a monthly report for as little as R59 per month which is dirt cheap. Not only do you get a report, but you also get access to our premium tools and education to improve your score. The value you will get from this membership is worth more than 5 times the price.
4. Make sure sites are secure
Make sure that the sites are secure when entering personal information. There is a very easy way to see this.
In your browser address bar, you will either see a warning sign or a lock icon. If you see a lock icon, it means that the site is secure and the warning sign obviously means it is not. And btw - if you find this useful, please hit that like button to show it. Also make sure to click the subscribe button and the bell icon to be notified whenever we bring out content like this.
So let’s recap quickly:
- Make sure you destroy your physical mail properly
- Don’t give out personal information on social media
- Check your inquiries on your credit report every month
- Make sure that sites are secure when entering your personal information.
Now let’s assume you have been the victim of identity theft. What do you do now?
Firstly, contact the credit provider and inform them of the identity theft. Second, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and register for fraud protection. They will inform all the members of your identity theft problem and registration is free.
And there you have it. With staggering numbers like 337% increase in identity theft, one can only assume that this number will not stop growing. So make sure you apply the tips given in this video and make sure you stay safe online.
Your repayment history accounts for around 40% of your total credit score so unpaid bills could be fatal to your credit score. Make sure to check your credit report often, not only to combat identity theft but also to get the best possible score you can get because this will result in better finance deals in the end.