by Inga Sebata

ID theft still rampant

Protect yourself against identity fraud

ID fraud is still running rampant in SA
ID theft.jpg

Identity theft is widespread and ongoing. “Don’t ever think it can never happen to you because, without the right precautions, it can,” cautions Sharon Coppola, legal risk and compliance executive at information services group, Experian.

Urging consumers to be on the lookout for warning signals, she describes a typical instance of how one’s identity could be stolen and used:

“An individual’s identity number may be used when opening an account. The fraudster applies for an account using the ID and enters into some form of contract in the name of the person to whom the ID belongs. The thief then acquires a handset and starts to use the phone,” she says.

“At some subsequent point in time, the victim of the fraud discovers the scam because the telephone company starts to bill him/her. That’s when the stricken consumer needs to take instant action.”

Coppola recommends the following remedial steps:

  • Contact the telephone company and advise, via an affidavit, that the account in question has been opened under false pretences;
  • Open a case with the police; and
  • Check out your credit status with a credit bureau such as Experian, and advise the bureau of the identity theft to ensure your status has not been damaged.

She advises consumers to follow a defensive strategy by regularly viewing their credit reports to ensure  there are no fictitious entries to their accounts.

“Protect your ID by obtaining a credit report on a regular basis. You can access your report at any time online. There are significant benefits derived in terms of early ID theft detection.

“ID fraud requires you to go to the trouble and extreme inconvenience of explaining to one or more credit providers that you did not complete that application form; that you do not owe the money; that you don’t know who it is.”

Coppola stresses the need to be constantly aware of one’s vulnerability to identity theft.

“If you think about it, you present your ID on a host of occasions. The organisations requesting ID are usually well aware of the document’s confidentiality. But bad apples may lurk. So check your credit report regularly.”

Identity theft aside, Coppola recommends that consumers check their credit reports when applying for credit; that they ensure their credit standing is healthy and that they agree with the information that populates the report.

“It’s the responsible thing to do. Often applications for credit are declined, or the applicant does not get the credit he/she wants and needs. Upon checking their credit report with a credit bureau, they may discover the reasons, perhaps explaining why the application was unsuccessful. If they’d done the checks up front and taken action to try and rectify their credit status, the application could have gone much better.

“After all, when you apply for a job, you prepare yourself, update your curriculum vitae and then submit the application. Why, then, should you not take the same level of care when applying for credit?"

 

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