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Take control against identity theft

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Statistics from the South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) show that identity theft has increased by 200% over the past six years. This has raised the need for greater education around this crime, especially when it comes to early detection.

“It is important that there is ongoing awareness around identity theft, especially with fraudsters becoming smarter and more nimble. Individuals need to be alert and keep ahead of them at all times. Identifying – and stopping this crime in its tracks – sooner rather than later can save time and money,” says Dion Scotten, fraud consultant at Experian South Africa.

According to Experian, it can take up to 292 days for individuals to notice their information has been wrongfully used for fraudulent activities if they do not keep regular check of their activities.

“Criminal activity is often only discovered at the least expected times, such as when paying a bill at a restaurant, applying for a credit card or taking out a mobile phone contract,” says Scotten. “This comes at a great cost to victims with repercussions including large bill payments, inability to access credit and loans for major purchases, as well as an impacted credit score.”

There are, however, ways that fraud can be prevented. These include:

  • Watching for unusual transactional activities – regular credit card and bank statement checks help, also accessing these online where real-time information is available. Setting-up SMS alerts for when transactions are made on your account can help to identify any unusual activity or purchases that were made.
  • Check your credit report – credit reports should be checked regularly as many of your financial accounts are detailed in it. This is also a good way to spot fraud early. When checking your credit report, it is important to keep an eye on irregular searches made on your report by lenders as a result of a credit application. Looking out for loans or accounts on your credit report that are not yours, as well as incorrect personal details such as your home address are also vital.

“There are other warning signs of identity theft, such as email confirmations of purchases that you did not make, credit cards arriving that you did not apply for, or even receiving messages and/or phone calls of credit for accounts that have approved or denied credit for,” explains Scotten.

If you do find yourself in the position of being a victim of identity fraud, it is important to take action quickly, beginning with contacting your bank or lender to report any stolen cards so they can investigate and take the necessary security steps. To protect yourself further, it is important to stay in control of calls, letters and emails to detect any unusual activity.

“Early detection of identity theft is important and, apart from financial losses, can save up to 300 hours or more of having to deal with the administrative consequences created by this fraud. Being extra vigilant and creating a monitoring routine can help with identifying suspicious activity and protect you against identity fraud,” ends Scotten.