As the Internet becomes a larger presence in the lives of teenagers and young adults, it is important that you understand the risks regarding fraud. You need to know how you could be at risk of having your identity stolen, or how other personal information could be compromised.
Is It a Problem?
How big a problem is identity theft in South Africa, though? In Kwazulu-Natal, the region’s contribution to the amount of national fraud incidents was 22% in 2015, which was an increase from 19% in 2013. However, ID theft is decreasing across South Africa. This could be because people are more aware now that fraud is a problem. As the awareness of fraud grows, communities become more educated, leading to a better understanding of how to protect themselves against cybercrime and identity theft.
Though fraud is decreasing, it doesn’t mean there is no longer a problem. Reports from Cape Town say that criminals are costing the country over R1 billion a year by building up debt with stolen identities.
How Is Your Identity Stolen?
Identities can be stolen in a number of ways. Most are stolen through attempts to gain access to private accounts, such as online bank accounts. This is done by using what is called a phishing scam, where the thief uses an email designed to look as though it was sent by a bank to capture login usernames and passwords.
Alternatively, people trying to commit identity theft may attempt to hack databases where sensitive information is kept. This gives them access to a large amount of login information, which could be used to steal identities and commit fraud.
Protecting yourself can be a simple task, and often requires the use of common sense. Make sure that you have strong and unique usernames and passwords. These should not be shared with anybody else, no matter how much you trust them. This is because they could store your usernames and passwords where someone else could discover them, such as on a piece of paper, or electronically in an unencrypted document. If someone gains access to your usernames and passwords, the risk of your identity being stolen increases significantly, especially if you are not informed of new devices or computers logging into your accounts.
There are companies like the South African Fraud Prevention Service, which combat fraud across the financial services industry with the help of businesses. This provides the South African public with a means of protecting themselves against identity theft and impersonation.