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Impersonator fraud rose by 337% in 2020 - here's how to protect your identity

3 March 2021 5:21 PM

Impersonation fraud has increased by a massive 337%. Consumers have been warned to protect their personal information.

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has released new statistics showing a sharp increase in identity fraud over the past year.

According to the SAFPS report on 2020 fraud statistics, impersonation fraud was up by a whopping 337% over 2019’s figures.

Impersonation fraud is where someone steals your identity to apply for credit, open accounts and make purchases against your name.

The scammers go on a spending spree and leave their victims with bad credit records and a huge battle on their hands to clear their names, says consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

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Experts suspect the massive Experian data leak and the cybersecurity risk caused by working from home may have contributed to the sharp rise in identity fraud.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Register with SAFPS database

The SAFPS offers a free, protective registration that gives the South African public a means of protecting themselves against impersonation and identity theft.

Consumers can register with SAFPS to either protect themselves against any future fraud attempts or register a stolen or misplaced ID book or passport.

The SAFPS database red-flags your identity with credit providers, so when an application is made in your name, the company doesn’t proceed unless the person is able to verify their identity by means of other forms of identification.

Click here to learn more about the SAFPS Protection Registration.

  • Make a habit of checking your credit score

Consumers are urged to get into the habit of checking their credit records regularly to see if credit applications were made in your name.

Being proactive about checking your credit score could help prevent potential blacklisting if a fraudster hasn’t made a payment which you adversely affect your record.

Some credit bureaus such as Transunion, offer an alert service for a nominal fee, and the moment someone applies for credit in your name, you get an SMS notification.

  • Be careful when disposing of documents containing your info

Never throw away documents without checking if your persona information is hidden.

Paper records containing personal and sensitive information should be shredded or burnt, Knowler suggests.

  • Don't share too much online

Avoid revealing too much personal information on your social media accounts.

Fraudsters and impersonators are mining your personal info from the digital footprint you leave behind.

"The real message here is to be proactive about protecting your own identity", Knowler explains.

For various reasons, these great pretenders had a field day in 2020... Impersonation fraud has the biggest leap in 2019 to 2020 - 337%. That's very, very disturbing.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

The fraudsters “harvest” people’s personal details from a variety of sources – don't just throw your old account [statements] and things... burn them or shred them, it's not being paranoid.... Most of us reveal far to much on Facebook.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

We need to get a lot smarter with our details.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

You can add your name to the SAFPS Protective Registration list. It's free. It red-flags your identity with credit providers who are members of the SAFPS.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

So when somebody makes an application for some form of credit or store account, the company will not proceed until they have taken further steps to verify that it is indeed you. They will ask for a drivers licence or a passport or other things which a fraudster is unlikely to have.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

Listen to the full ConsumerTalk segment for more info:

3 March 2021 5:21 PM

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