Image of a woman sitting at a desk typing on a laptop while an identity fraudster lurks behind her

The Impacts of Identity Fraud

27/03/2013 • • by
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What is identity fraud? Identity fraud is when someone uses your personal information such as your name, ID Number or other identifying information, to commit fraud by opening accounts and making purchases in your name. How does identity fraud happen? Fraudsters obtain your details in various ways:
  • They could steal your wallet or bag and thereby obtain you driver’s licence or ID.
  • Phishing* scams are a common way of obtaining information these days.
  • There may also be nefarious individuals working at organisations that require your information for legitimate reasons.
  • Particularly brazen criminals will contact you directly and impersonate an employee from an organisation pretending to need your details to update their database or process a refund.
  *Phishing: creating a fake email or website which appears to be from a legitimate institution for the purposes of acquiring your personal details. Once they have your details they’re able to open accounts at stores or take out cellphone contracts. They may even be able to access your bank accounts. Most organisations have systems in place to prevent this happening but employees may not do their job properly or they may be in cahoots with the criminals. Signs that your identity may have been stolen: If you suddenly start receiving notifications or communications from a store, this may indicate that an account has been opened with your details. However, many of the signs can only be detected with some effort on your part. Things that you should pay attention to and check regularly:
  • Your credit report:You are allowed one free credit report per year from the credit bureaus, such as Transunion or XDS. moneysmart tip:You should check your credit report every few months to ensure there are no new accounts or judgements which are not your own. Get Your Credit Report Now!
  • Your tax statement: If there are any unusual transactions such as refunds or collections you were not expecting, this is cause for concern.
  • You bank accounts: Regularly check your bank statements for withdrawals, transfers or stop/debit orders which you haven’t authorised.
  • Credit card statements: Always check your credit card statement against your purchases to ensure there are no additional transactions.
Unfortunately you need to be proactive to ensure you’re aware of potential issues as soon as possible so that you can reduce the damage. What's the impact of identity fraud? Identity fraud can be a major inconvenience and the longer it goes unaddressed the worse the problem gets. Your primary concern will be your credit rating. Having additional credit facilities available to you reduces the amount of credit you can apply for. You should close any accounts that you don’t need in order to qualify for greater credit in future. Fraudulent accounts can reduce your credit worthiness even if you haven’t been blacklisted yet. However, if the account is used and remains unpaid, you’ll eventually be blacklisted. This is a very serious problem and it is difficult and time-consuming to sort out. Most people only find out they’re blacklisted when they’re trying to open an account or buy a car or even property. The person will not be able to continue with the transaction until the blacklisting has been sorted out, which can take some time, causing major inconvenience. How to prevent identity fraud: Watch out for online phishing. Never give out your personal details over email and be wary of links in emails which take you to a site where you are asked for your details or pin. These may be for apparently safe sites like eBucks and other loyalty programmes. 

Store ID documents in a safe placeand be careful to whom you give copies. 

Register lost/stolen ID documents with the SA Fraud Prevention Service +27 11 867 2234, safps@safps.org.za, www.safps.org.za 

Report lost/stolen bank or store cardsto the relevant institutions immediately. `

Check your credit report regularly. You will be able to see if someone opens an account in your name and you can address the issue before you are blacklisted. What should you do if your identity has been stolen?
  • Report the fraud to the SA Fraud Prevention Service (Helpline: 0860 101 248)
  • Contact the store or company where the account was opened to inform them of the fraud.
  • Report the fraud to the police and get a case number.
  • Advise a credit bureau of the fraud to ascertain the damage to your credit report and lodge a dispute for investigation.

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