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May 2021 2nd edition

Protect your identity

Written by Allison Cooper

Be aware of people trying to steal your identity, especially on social media.

Identity theft happens when someone pretends to be you. They steal and use your personal information, such as your name, phone number, email address, date of birth, physical address, banking details and even your identity number.

When other people track this information on the internet or on social media, they think that they are dealing with you. They don’t know that someone else is using your information.

Every device and the technology you use, even though it makes your life easier, can put your information at risk.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Experts believe that someone's identity is stolen every two seconds. Sadly, most people believe it can’t happen to them until it is too late.

According to credit bureau TransUnion, because identity theft is a silent crime, it can go for months, or even years, before the victim finds out about it. By this time, the victim has a lot of debt that has been run up in their name. They only find out when they get accounts that they know nothing about or when their application for credit is not approved.

Because identity thieves are getting smarter and faster, you have to act fast and stay ahead of them.

Protect your personal information

Some tips to protect your personal informational include:

  • Don’t carry unnecessary personal information in your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t disclose passwords and pin numbers by telephone, fax or email.
  • Don’t write down passwords and pin numbers.
  • Don’t use birth dates and first names as passwords or pin numbers.
  • Don’t use internet cafés or unsecure connections to do your banking.
  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
  • Keep personal and financial documents locked away.
  • When destroying personal information, either shred or burn it. Do not tear it up and put it in the garbage.
  • Secure your smartphone with the lock screen security function.
  • Be careful when downloading apps.

If your identity document is used to commit fraud or if it is lost or stolen, contact the SA Fraud Prevention Service at 0860 101 248 or www.safps.org.za. If your driver's license is stolen, report it to your closest South Africa Police Service as soon as possible.

Information supplied by the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies.