ID Theft Increases Over Festive Season

Eva Smith (Attorney) @ Lucid Living

Be vigilant of identity theft this festive season, warns the banking industry.

Wesbank’s head of risk, Nicholas Litton, advised consumers to be vigilant with their personal details this Christmas as the season traditionally saw a spike in fraudulent activity – like identity theft.

He said that besides the direct financial losses that could result from identity theft, there was also the risk of the credit report of a consumer being compromised.

“Once criminals have access to your personal information, they can assume your identity, apply for vehicle finance and thereafter acquire the asset. Should they default on the agreed payment installments for the vehicle, which is most likely the case, this can leave you with a blacklisting on your credit report.

“This is also likely to prevent you from securing any form of asset financing until your credit report has been cleared, which is a timely and costly process as you would have to prove that your identity has been compromised,” said Litton.

He added that the Department of Home Affairs announced recently that it had eliminated 84 000 illegal “duplicate” IDs over the past year. However, a further 130 000 were still to be recovered.

“These alarming statistics do not bode well for the unsuspecting consumer.”

Identity theft costs the banking industry millions of rands annually – see the figure below illustrating the cost of fraud from credit cards.

Litton provided consumers with the following tips to help keep them from becoming the victim of identity theft:

  • Keep your personal items such as your ID, passport and credit card information in a safe and controlled environment as criminals can easily duplicate your details without your knowledge.
  • Be careful what information you disclose over the internet.
  • Activate a credit report profile with a credit bureau as this will allow you to check your credit record 24/7.
  • Obtain at least two credit reports of your profile each year with the credit bureau.
  • Should you receive account statements or bills that are in your name but do not belong to you, contact your bank or the credit provider immediately.