Identity theft is one type of fraud that affects both businesses and individuals, and is widespread in South Africa, Experian SA said in a press statement issued on Monday, 18 November 2013.
“Identity theft is widespread and don’t ever think it can never happen to you because without the right precautions it can,” said Sharon Coppola, legal risk and compliance executive at information services group, Experian SA.
Fraud awareness is critical as organisations and individuals around the world lose revenues annually as a result of fraud related crimes Experian SA said.
Identity theft in particular, occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, without your authorisation, in order to commit fraud or other offenses, such as obtaining loans, services or credit.
“Indeed, identity theft of all shapes and sizes is frighteningly prevalent. You can correct it – but obviously, only if you are aware of it,” Coppola sasid.
According to Experian, the majority of consumers do not monitor their credit reports regularly.
“At some subsequent point in time the victim of the fraud discovers the fraud only when credit providers start to bill them or follow up on the payment,” she said.
Coppola recommends the following remedial steps for identity theft victims:
- Contact the credit provider and advise, via an affidavit, that the account in question has been opened under false pretences;
- Open a case with the police; and
- Check out your credit status with a credit bureau like Experian SA and advise the bureau of the identity theft to ensure that your status has not been damaged.
She advises consumers to follow a defensive strategy by regularly viewing their credit reports to ensure that there are no fictitious entries to their accounts.
Experian SA encouraged consumers to take advantage of the free annual service provided by the credit bureaus as prescribed by the National Credit Act, which gives them the right to access their credit reports once a year at no cost.
Coppola said that it is important to monitor your credit report to ensure that the information in it is legitimate, correct, and has not been tarnished in any way by illegal credit activities.
These illegal activities may be a deterrent when accessing the credit that you need and retaining a healthy credit standing, Coppola said.