Lookout for identity theft on your credit report
Identity theft is a crime that has left many South Africans with bad credit scores and negative credit listings. With an increasing number of scams being reported in South Africa, it's important that you know what identity theft is, how and where to spot it, and the steps that you can take if you have become a victim of such a scam. In this blog, we will answer most of your frequently asked questions when it comes to identity theft. The power is in your hands to keep yourself protected.
What is identity theft?
When your personal information falls into the wrong hands, you are at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. This could have serious consequences. Criminals are constantly looking for new ways to access your name, your ID number and your banking information in order to commit fraud in your name. They will use this information to open credit accounts, get a loan or even a cellphone contract. After months without paying, the lender will then put a default and, subsequently, a judgement on your name. Often, this is when you will first discover that you have been a victim of identity fraud.
Where do they access your personal information?
Have you ever received a phone call, a text message or email that just seemed too good to be true? It could also have been any form of communication that requires "urgent" attention in the form of clicking a link or "verifying" your person details. Maybe you recently lost your identity card, or it was stolen. Criminals will then use the information they have about you to pretend to be you. Armed with your name and ID number, they will open various credit accounts.
How do you know if you have been a victim?
Many people only find out they have been a victim of identity theft when they receive a collection notice from a lender, or when they get declined for credit due to a default or judgement on their credit report.
Your credit report is probably the best place to spot signs of identity fraud. There, you will notice the tell-tale signs such as unknown credit accounts, too many hard inquiries in your name, a drop in your credit score, or a judgement or default in your name. Your bank statement is another good place to check. Look for unauthorised debit orders for a contract or credit account you have no knowledge of.
How can you protect your identity against this type of scam?
- Don't share your personal information with anyone.
- Make sure that your ID document is with you or in a safe place at all times.
- Verify every communication you receive from anyone before actioning.
- Set up a strong password when banking or shopping online.
- Regularly monitor your credit report. This is available as often as you need it at African Bank. Any South African can view and download their detailed credit report from the African Bank App or an African Bank internet banking profile.
What to do if you have been a victim of identity fraud?
There are several actions you can take if you believe that you have become victim of identity theft. First, report the theft to your nearest police station and fill out an affidavit. The second step is to share that affidavit with the lender through whom the criminal opened a fraudulent account in your name. Then, notify your bank so that you can prevent any further loss of money until you can resolve this issue. Finally, reach out to TransUnion South Africa to report the fraudulent activity on your account. They will put an alert on your name and help you to fix the judgements that occurred as a result of the identity theft.
The earlier you catch them, the better. While you can’t always prevent identity theft because of the clever tactics that criminals come up with on a daily basis, you can be proactive about minimising the damage. Review your credit report regularly so that you can quickly spot and remedy any signs of identity theft.