identity theft and credit card fraud
  • Identity theft and credit fraud are common offenses, and might involve someone falsely using someone else's details to fill in loan applications, apply for online accounts and subscribe to online services without their knowledge.
  • Sometimes an increase in the amount of spam messages is the worst of the consequences, but other times identity theft can lead to charges on your bank account that you didn't make yourself.
  • If you spot any signs of identity theft or credit fraud, contact your bank's fraud department and file a case with the police.

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Identity theft and credit fraud are common offenses, and it could happen to you if you’ve noticed an increase in the amount of messages you’re getting about loans or if creditors have started to call you about loans you didn’t take.

1. Charges You Didn’t Make on Monthly Statements

Always check your monthly bank statements, and make sure that all of the charges appearing on it are ones that you can identify and remember making.

If you see any unidentifiable charges on your monthly bank statement, contact your bank to find out when and where these charges were made. If it wasn’t you, it’s time to file a report with your bank’s fraud department.

Even though most people get a message or e-mail for charges to their account, smaller amounts (usually less than R100) might only appear on bank statements.

2. Debit Orders You Can’t Identify

Fraudulent charges sometimes sneak in as debit orders, and debit order fraud was one of the most prevalent types during 2019.

Online banking for most banks allows you to see a list of all of your debit orders, and some banks are changing the system to mean you have to confirm a debit order through your banking profile before it can be added to the list. This makes debit order fraud a lot less likely, but it still means that you should check.

Any unrecognized debit orders can be stopped by contacting your bank or visiting online banking.

3. Messages or Spam from Creditors

If you are being contacted by creditors by loans that you didn’t take out, or you’re receiving e-mails or messages with your name in it, contact the appropriate creditor and first find out if the message really comes from them.

Sometimes messages with your name in it are a “shot in the dark” trying to get you to click on a link or give up personal information. Don’t fall for it. Contacting the original loans provider makes this less likely to happen.

If it turns out that your details were used to fraudulently apply for a real loan, the creditor, your bank and the police are the three groups you should contact first.

4. Website Accounts and Profiles You Didn’t Open

Fraud can include more than just applying for loans. Sometimes it also involves accounts opened on websites just to inconvenience the person on the other end.

If someone has been trying to open up a thousand different accounts with your details, it’s likely that you’ll get an e-mail in your inbox asking you to confirm your e-mail address for the new account, or you might receive e-mails from a mailing list you didn’t know you were on and didn’t subscribe to.

If this happens to you, get in touch with the site’s webmaster or technical support team and let them know you didn’t open these accounts. Usually, this is enough to get the fake accounts shut down.

5. More Spam and Mobile Charges

If you’re getting a lot of spam messages to your mobile or charges are going off your phone that you didn’t make (sometimes in the form of subscription services that charge money per day), someone might have used your mobile number to sign up for any of these services.

Check your mobile carrier’s main menu (e.g. *136# for MTN users) and navigate to the appropriate menu for Subscription Services. Here, you’ll see all of the paid services your mobile number has been subscribed to – and you’re usually able to unsubscribe yourself from the list here.

If the problem keeps happening even after you’ve unsubscribed, contact your mobile carrier directly and ask them to look into it or change your number.

Alex J. Coyne

Alex J. Coyne is a writer, journalist and card player. He's been published in international publications including Moneyweb, CollegeHumor, Funds for Writers, Great Bridge Links, Bridge Canada Magazine and a variety of others

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