Protect your identity at all times

22 October 2020 | Crime

Although governments worldwide continue to invest in security measures to fight identity theft by implementing strict regulations, this development does not mean that consumers are safe or hackers are giving up.

According to a 2019 report by the United States-based Identity Theft Research Centre with every new platform, tool, or technology, there is even more significant potential for new avenues of attack, especially on a person’s identity.

With technological security features becoming more sophisticated, personal identity information has become the weakest link to bypass even the most sophisticated security systems used by banks, says Bank Windhoek’s Manager of Forensic Services, Johnny Truter.

“Your identity is who you are, how you think about yourself, how others see you, and the characteristics that define you. An example of identity is your name, which is very valuable.”

Now imagine waking up, and someone who claims to be you is shopping worldwide and uses your particulars for all the wrong reasons to benefit themselves.

“The above is an example of identity theft. It happens when a person steals your personal information such as your identification number and then uses the data to open credit card accounts and make use of other financial services - like applying for loans in your name.”

How can one prevent it from happening?

There are several ways to protect yourself from identity thieves, says Truter. “One of the most significant ways is to be aware that your identity is vulnerable to threats, especially in this digitised world fast-paced by Covid-19.”

He also provide the following pointers to remember:

Check your credit report: Regularly contact the credit bureau to check your credit report. It is accessible by right, free of charge. The information will show any accounts opened in your name. If you see unusual transactions, report them immediately to the business involved.

Study your bank statements: Pay attention to your monthly bills for any suspicious charges, including suspicious debit orders and unknown card-not-present internet payments for goods. Most importantly, register for notification services on your bank accounts, such as the Short Messages Services (SMS) AlertMe, available at no cost. The alerts inform you of all activity on your transaction accounts and reduce the risk of losses due to fraudulent transactions. Time is of the essence, and your quick response will increase the possibility of recovering any losses.

Dispose of and store information thoroughly: Shred all your personal and financial documents before putting them in the dustbin. Also, keep those that you do not want to be shredded, like your payslip, tax returns, and copies of your identity documents in a safe and secure place.

Strong passwords are essential: Use strong passwords and do not use your name or date of birth. Instead, use various numbers, words, letters mixed in both lowest and upper cases, and special characters protected by a strong firewall, up-to-date antivirus, and antimalware protection.

Do not respond to suspicious emails and avoid money wiring requests: Do not reply to emails, texts, or phone calls asking you for your personal information. Avoid the message and call your financial institution directly. Do not let people ask you to wire them money since this is the easiest way to defraud you and the least chance to recover any money.

“The above are just a few of many ways to protect yourself against identity theft, but practicing vigilance remains one of the most robust defences to curb identity theft and fraud. If you are a victim or suspect that a scammer is targeting you, contact the Customer Contact Centre of your bank immediately to report the incident. Protect your identity at all times; it is precious. And remember, a bank will never ask for your personal information over the phone,” concluded Truter.

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