by Marina Short
Financial fraud is on the rise in South Africa. As the number of credit consumers grows, so does the sophistication and ingeniousness of would-be fraudsters. Losing control of your credit through identity fraud can derail your financial planning and destroy your credit history good-standing.
Don’t be caught unawares. Here’s the top ten info-packed things that ID fraudsters are after:
• A bank statement — If they’re lucky, your statement will indicate your overdraft limit as well as your full name, address and account number.
• A credit card statement — This won’t contain your PIN, so they can’t use the card account in a South African retailer — but it could be enough to buy from some foreign websites.
• Access to your social networking page — Here you might disclose your date of birth, spouse and children’s names, and enough information for a ID thief to guess your PIN and passwords.
• The security code on the back of your credit card — This is used to prove you are in possession of the card when you buy online, or by mail or telephone order. Fraudsters who have managed to get hold of a name, address and card data are now calling or e-mailing people pretending to be security staff and asking for the code, which frees them up to steal even larger sums.
• Your driving licence or passport — Photographic ID that can be amended by an expert and used to falsify that he or she is actually you.
• The reply to a phishing e-mail — This is packed with data that you’ve trustingly filled in with personal and financial information. Remember, your bank has your info – they won’t email you asking for it. Also, with lottery and inheritance phishing scams, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
• Your PINs and passwords — These are essential if a criminal wants access to many of your accounts or to use your payment cards. Don’t save your pins to your cellphone contact list or write them down on a note in your wallet. Don’t share them with anyone!
• A catalogue — It may look innocuous but it could be stamped with your name, address and account number, so a thief could phone up, claim you’ve moved home and hijack your spending limit.
• Your CV — Think about it: your CV usually has your name, address, date of birth, employment history, and marital status. Your CV contains so much information that could be used to impersonate you that some online job search services are advising people not to include so many details. If you need to send your CV for a job application, google the company first and double-check email addresses.
• Online banking information — A prime target for credit-hungry fraudsters, who often set up fake websites to con genuine account holders into parting with their access data. Never click a link in an e-mail directing you to a supposed banking site — it could be a trap. Instead, memorise your banking website address and type it in. Look for the little lock symbol in the address bar of your web browser too. Better yet, bank from your banking app on a smartphone or tablet. These are some of the most secure forms of electronic banking.
Checking your credit report regularly will reveal if your name has been used to open new accounts, and enquiries (also reflected on your report) from companies you’ve never applied to could indicate that someone is trying to impersonate you to get credit. You are entitled to one free report from each of the credit bureaus per year.
Marina Short is the CEO of Consumer Profile Bureau (CPB) – one of the larger credit bureaus in South Africa and a member of the Credit Bureau Association. The Credit Bureau Association (CBA) is a voluntary body that promotes fair and equitable services within the credit bureau industry. Together, the individual bureaus and the CBA work to educate credit consumers on the importance of knowing and managing their credit profiles.