Identity/Personal information Fraud
The theft of Personal Information, otherwise known as Identity Theft, is one of the leading contributors to a successful fraud. Identity Theft is a type of fraud which involves stealing money or gaining other benefits by acquiring Personal Information and pretending to be someone else.
Perpetrators target victims indiscriphminately and Identity Theft can take place when the victim is deceased or alive. The consequences of your Identity being compromised can be emotionally devastating and can have a direct impact on your personal finance. This can make it difficult to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved.
What is personal information?
Personal Information includes all information that is unique to you, such as:
- Your ID document or driver’s license.
- Credit card information.
- Municipality statements.
- Cheque books and bank cards.
- Banking details.
- Telephone records.
- Card PIN numbers and Internet banking passwords
What can criminals do with your personal information?
Criminals can use Personal Information to assume your Identity and acquire retail or bank accounts, or even defraud your insurance, medical aid and UIF. In some instances, perpetrators go to your bank and make transactions on your accounts while impersonating you.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Personal Information or Identity Theft
- Do not disclose Personal Information over the internet or telephonically, without knowing exactly who you are disclosing the information to and what it will be used for.
- Be careful when you enter competitions or answer surveys because sometimes these are scams to source your information. ‘Getting to know you’ emails are another trick perpetrators use to acquire Personal Information.
- Carefully consider the information you disclose electronically. This includes personal profile information on your business website, social networks, chat rooms and other online media.
- Do not carry all your identification documentation with you, unless absolutely necessary. Generally, only one document is necessary to conduct daily transactions, the rest should be locked away securely.
- Ensure your filing is always secure. Documents can be stolen or copied if left in your car or office.
- Always shred documents that contain Personal Information instead of throwing them away. Your rubbish bin is a great source of information so ensure your documents are unreadable before you dispose of them.
- Delete all Personal Information and format the hard drive of any electronic devices such as cell phones, PDAs or computers before you release the item.
- Ensure your Personal Information is subject to a confidentiality clause and cannot be sold or used for anything other than the specified purpose before you disclose it.
As a consumer you have the right to obtain one free credit report each year from each credit bureau. Use the report from Compuscan, Experian, Transunion ITC and Xpert Decision System to check if institutions have made enquiries about you. This could indicate that your details have been used without your authorisation.
What to do if you are a Victim of Personal Information Theft
- Report the crime to the police immediately.
- Notify your bank, insurance company and other entities where you currently are a client.
- Notify the party that issues the stolen document(s) such as the Department of Home Affairs for passports and ID books and the Traffic and Licensing Department for driver’s licenses.
- If you suspect that your mail may have been stolen, diverted or tampered with contact the post office.
- Contact the South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS) for assistance if you are a victim of ID theft (SAFPS Help-Line number is 0860 101 248).
Perpetrators use a number of techniques to gather Personal Information for Identity Theft purposes. Two of the most prominent methods are Phishing and Shoulder Surfing and Card Skimming.
You can find out more information about Phishing here.
You can find out more information about Shoulder Surfing and Card Skimming here.