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Identity theft: The what, the how and the quiz.

You’ve likely heard of a story that includes an identity theft nightmare. Even more so recently. That’s because fraud and identity theft are on an exponential upward trend. The below image shows the alarming trend.

Identity theft statistics in South Africa relating to impersonation, money mules and forged documents

Identity theft statistics in South Africa

Whether this has already happened to you or not, you’ll want to take steps to secure your identity. How? The first step is to educate, educate, educate! You need to arm yourself with knowledge. Here are some FAQs, answered:

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is a criminal act. It is when someone uses your personal information to pretend to be you. They could use your address, your cell phone number, your ID number, your bank account number, or even your Smart Shopper details. Fraudsters usually pretend to be you to commit fraud for financial gain. They may also sell your details on the dark web to the highest bidder.

How do identity theft fraudsters get your details?

Fraudsters can come by your personal information in many ways.

Phishing

This is when you receive a legitimate-looking email or text from a fraudster. The text or email aims to persuade you to open the attached link. The attached link may activate the download of malware (malicious software). The malware mines your computer or device from personal information and sends it to the identity theft fraudster.

Skimming

Credit card or ATM card skimming happens when a fraudster puts a fake device in place of an authentic card reader. For example, at an ATM or a point of sale. The fake device is often hard to visually detect. Once you, the innocent account holder, place your card into the device, your card is scanned for the data from the magnetic strip. The fraudster may also have set up a small camera to capture other information like your ATM pin. With this information, the fraudster can make purchases or withdrawals in your name.

Wi-Fi hacking

When public wi-fi is unencrypted fraudsters can hack into the data that is being sent and received to and from your phone, laptop or other devices. If your device has software vulnerabilities, these fraudsters can upload malware to them and gain access to your personal information.

Dumpster diving

Identity theft fraudsters may be digging through your trash to find your discarded mail and using it to piece together a profile of your information. It is always wise to shred any documents with personal information – including preapproved lines of credit from stores and banks. They often come with a card. Destroy the card too.  

Have you been a victim of identity theft? Take the quiz.  

Unsure of whether you’ve been a victim? Answer these questions.

Have you:

  1. Noticed any unauthorized charges on your bank statements or credit card bills?
  2. Received any letters or calls from debt collectors for accounts you did not open?
  3. Been denied credit or noticed a decrease in your credit score without a clear reason?
  4. Received emails or letters regarding changes to your account information that you did not initiate?
  5. Gotten any unexpected bills or statements for services or products you did not purchase?
  6. Received any bills for services or products that were delivered to an address you did not recognize?
  7. Been notified of any data breaches or security incidents involving companies you have accounts with?
  8. Noticed any unfamiliar account information or addresses listed on your credit report?
  9. Received any unexpected tax forms or notices?
  10. Been informed by your bank or other financial institutions that your information has been used to open unauthorized accounts or make unauthorized transactions?

For each question answered “yes”, give yourself 1 point.

If you scored 0 points, it is unlikely that you have been a victim of identity fraud. However, it is always a good idea to regularly monitor your accounts and credit report for any suspicious activity.

However, if you scored 1-3 points, it is possible that you have been a victim of identity fraud, and it is recommended that you take steps to investigate and protect yourself.

If you scored 4 or more points, you have likely been a victim of identity fraud. You must take immediate action to report the fraud and take steps to protect yourself.

Please note that this quiz is not a substitute for professional advice, and it is recommended to consult with a financial advisor or identity theft specialist for a more comprehensive evaluation of your situation.

How to avoid identity theft.

With Secure Citizen for individuals, an individual’s unique biometric information will be captured and validated against the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) database. Their Digital Identity will now serve as a way of engaging with businesses and people, as well as preventing fraudsters from impersonating them or making them a victim of identity theft.

Secure Citizen for Individuals is free (A South African first) and available to all South African citizens. A South African ID is not required.

Secure Citizen for Individuals launches soon! Sign up for the waitlist.

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Picture of Dalene Deale

Dalene Deale

Dalene Deale brings extensive experience in the financial sector, having held a variety of roles in business analysis, process engineering, corporate acquisition and fintech management. Using her passion, knowledge and expertise, Dalene previously oversaw TransUnion’s FinTech strategy, assisting them throughout their various stages of growth. Now, as the Executive head at Secure Citizen, her passion and driving force is to “empower every African with a secure, digital identity.”

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