Identity theft, be careful

2016-02-24 06:00

YOU could be sharing too much personal information on social media, Sabric warns. As banks advance with new technologies to fight bank-related fraud, fraudsters are resorting to more subtle ways of stealing personal information for the purpose of perpetrating identity related fraud.

In the past, criminals focused on stealing identity books - they now collect diverse personal information, whether an email address or a phone number, and then use the information collectively to take a customer’s identity. What is worse is that most of this information is freely shared by bank consumers, without being aware that it can be used by criminals to defraud them.

The role of the Home Affairs National Identification System (Hanis) biometric verification solution by several banks has made it difficult for criminals to commit identity fraud using tampered identity books as banks can now verify the identity of their clients using their biometric fingerprints.

While it remains extremely important to safeguard your identity document, it is important to know that other personal information is also a valuable commodity for criminals, especially in light of the success of the Hanis biometric verification solution.

Personal information includes your driver’s licence, physical address, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, Pin numbers and any information that can uniquely identify you.

Sabric warns alternate ways in which criminals collect information is through social engineering tactics. They call their victim pretending to be from the bank and trick them into disclosing confidential information like passwords and Pin numbers over the phone.

Emails purporting to be from the bank are also common and of late, some of these emails also have malware attached to them. Once the malware is installed onto the computer of the victim, the malware steals sensitive information and sends it to the criminals.

Criminals also trawl the internet to gather odd bits of information about their victims, which they then piece together to form a profile of the victim.. Social media platforms are a valuable source of information for criminals as many consumers have more personal information on their Facebook profile for example, than necessary.

“People should be very aware that personal details such as names of their children, their birthdays and their whereabouts etc., which they post on social media, could be abused by criminals,” said Pillay, Sabric CEO.

Other ways in which fraudsters attempt to steal bank customer’s information is by creating fake competitions, directing consumers to spoofed websites and intercepting emails to gain access to private information.

The theft of personal information has resulted in a number of South Africans being defrauded with some only finding out they have been a victim of identity theft when they apply for new credit facilities, such as home and car loans.

“Identity theft can happen to anyone and is costly to remedy once your credit profile has been affected. This is why it is important for consumers to stay abreast of how identity fraud trends change so they can protect themselves,” said Pillay.

Consumers are encouraged to follow these tips to minimise the risk of falling victim to identity theft:

• Make sure all your accounts have strong passwords that are not easy to decipher.

• Don’t disclose personal information such as passwords and Pin numbers when asked to do so by anyone via phone, fax or email.

• Shred documents that contain your personal information and do not throw away anything that someone else could use to impersonate you.

• Avoid carrying unnecessary personal information in your wallet or purse.

• Be selective with the type of information you share on social media sites and make use of strict privacy settings.

• Do not get taken in by scammers who send messages telling you that you have won a prize, or inherited money as they could be trying to defraud you.

• Store personal and financial documents safely and always locked away.

• Don’t use internet cafés or unsecure terminals such as hotels and conference centres to do your banking.

• Should your ID or driving licence be stolen, report it to the SAPS and the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) immediately.

• To prevent your ID from being used to commit fraud, if it is ever lost or stolen, alert the SAFPS on 0860 101 248 or www.safps.org.za - Kanyisa Ndyondya

media and communications manager.

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