Tuesday, January 18

Six tips to avoid becoming a victim of credit fraud

International Fraud Awareness Week runs from November 14-20, with the goal of raising awareness about tax, corporate and consumer fraud, identity theft, and the many other ways criminals they take advantage of people and organizations.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and a report by Grant Thornton, ‘The Next Normal: Prepare for a Post-pandemic Fraud Landscape’, 51% of organizations have discovered more fraud since the start of the pandemic. About 71% expect the level of fraud affecting their organizations to increase over the next year.

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The Covid-19 pandemic may have limited the activities of law-abiding citizens, but it appears that many scammers are thriving.

The best way to limit fraud losses is, of course, to prevent them from happening in the first place. Scammers generally need information from you, so watch out for warning signs, so you can stop trust violators in your way.

Credit fraud is when someone borrows money in your name or uses your cards to buy goods or services.

You are typically left with unpaid debt in your name, a problem that can take a lot of time and effort to resolve. This new debt can also affect your credit score, which is the measure banks and other lenders use to decide whether to lend you money. Your credit score also determines whether you will receive a favorable interest rate.

Here are six tips to help you stay safe:

  • Protect personal information. A nice-sounding person who appears to represent your bank or a government agency and asks to update their details could be a sophisticated scammer. Do not disclose account numbers, passwords, or other information. Also be wary of emails, text messages, or pop-ups, which are unlikely to come from legitimate companies.
  • Configure security. Use hard-to-crack passwords and change them regularly. Install virus, firewall, and spyware protection on your computer and keep them up to date.
  • Be careful when buying. More people have switched to online shopping since the shutdown began. Don’t use internet cafes or common spaces to shop, and only do business with well-known companies. Signs of a safe and authentic site are a lock icon in the browser’s status bar or a website URL that begins with “https:”
  • Review the monthly statements. Enter the habitat of reviewing your monthly statements so you can spot any suspicious entries. If the statements are printed, shred or shred them instead of throwing them away.
  • Check your credit score. Regularly check your credit score, as this is one way to find out if loans have been fraudulently obtained in your name.
  • Store cards safely: Usually you only need one or two credit cards and ID for everyday use. Keep the rest in a safe place.

Act immediately if you think you have been scammed or have lost your cards. Report the incident to your financial institution, report the incident to the police, and request a case number. You can also contact the Southern Africa Fraud Prevention Service on 011 867 2234 or here.

Credit fraud is planned, it doesn’t happen by chance. The thief has specifically selected you.

People expect criminals to look like baddies from an old movie, but they are more likely to speak well and be tech savvy. It is worth getting informed and being vigilant.

Shafeeka Anthony is a Marketing Manager for the personal finance website JustMoney.co.za.


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