If you’ve ordered something online over the past month, you’re part of a rapidly growing section of the population that relies on devices to make purchases. Whether you’re topping up milk that’s run out or sending flowers to a friend for their birthday, it’s undeniable that being able to use your personal information online can make life easier for you.
Unfortunately, this comes with pitfalls — primarily in identity theft. Legal Cover from Auto & General can give you identity theft insurance coverage. However, you may still be asking yourself: “What is identity theft?” or “What is identity theft insurance?” Well, we have the answers for you in this article.
What is identity theft and how does it happen?
In the past, people used their ID books or driver’s licences to prove their identity. They’d also write cheques or visit the bank to withdraw money and make payments. Those days are long gone. We now upload verifying documents online to prove who we are, make payments and purchases using smartphone apps and order items online using our bank card information.
This is where identity theft comes in. Identity theft is accessing someone’s personal or financial information such as their ID number, passwords or phone number in order to commit fraud.
South Africans started shopping online in earnest during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this habit has remained. The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s 2021/22 report reveals that local online sales increased by over 66% to more than R30 billion between 2019 and 2020. At the same time, Transunion reports that we’re experiencing an almost 5% increase in online fraud activity every year — higher than the global overage.
If you live in South Africa, identity theft can take place in the following ways:
- Phishing/online scams: Fake websites or emails impersonating legitimate businesses or people requesting you to verify your details.
- Malware: Downloadable PC or smartphone applications that appear genuine but allow criminals to access and record your device’s stored information.
- Data Breaches: When professional hackers access a bank, university or public institution’s stored customer data for ransom purposes.
- Hacking: Accessing someone’s information to perform fraudulent activities under their name
- Extortion: Threatening the release of vulnerable images or information in exchange for a ransom.
How can I protect myself against identity theft?
There are many ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to identity theft:
- Report the theft of personal items containing identifying information to the police and cancel or freeze any cards/accounts immediately
- Enable notifications for real-time SMSs or emails on every purchase
- Monitor your monthly or annual statements and reports for irregularities
- Carry cash on your person when making minor purchases or visiting busy events such as concerts or festivals
- Avoid sharing images with identifying information or your location on social media or censor it accordingly
- Avoid sharing confidential information via SMS, email or phone call
- Enable two-factor authentication on all transactions or accounts
- Disable one-tap purchasing on your bank or credit card
- Opt out of receiving print statements or document copies in favour of email ones. If you do receive print copies, keep them in a safe place or destroy them before disposal.
- If you struggle with remembering passwords and tend to use the same password for every account, use a unique password generator and password storage software to create and encrypt your passwords
- Avoid logging into personal accounts if using public Wi-Fi such as the kind available at shopping malls
What does identity theft insurance cover?
You can take steps to protect yourself from identity theft, but it can still take place despite your best efforts. When this happens, having identity theft insurance can protect you by affording you access to the following benefits:
- Drafting letters, making calls and sending documents via emails to relevant parties on your behalf
- Access to and monitoring of credit reports
- Coverage for notary, attorney, legal and fraud-related loan reapplication fees
- Coverage for costs relating to childcare and loss of earnings
- Professional identity theft assistance
- Litigation assistance including physical representation
Keeping up with your premiums and operating in accordance with your finance provider’s terms and conditions will ensure you get quick and efficient assistance. A failure to do so can result in your claim being rejected or taking longer than usual to process.
Steps to take if you realise your identity has been stolen
If you’re wondering what to do about identity theft when you’re insured, follow these steps:
Make a claim with your identity theft insurance
For instance, you can call Auto & General 24 hours a day on their emergency contact number 0860 10 42 10.
Immediately notify companies of your stolen identity
Your financial institution will have a dedicated line you can call 24/7 in the event of theft. To save time, find out what these numbers are and keep them handy so you can quickly access them when needed. Ensure that you keep any verification documents or codes in a safe place, so you can prove that you are the owner of your account.
Contact the police
You can report the incident to the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service and register any stolen documents by calling 011 867 2234 or emailing [email protected]. Make sure you get a case number or the details of the officer you speak with to ensure you can track the outcome of the case.
Put a fraud alert on your credit report
South Africans are legally entitled to one free credit report a year from organisations like TransUnion or Experian. You can request that the credit union place a fraud alert on your account. This means that if anyone tries to apply for credit using your details, you’ll receive a call from the creditor to verify you’re the one making the application.
Freeze your credit
A credit freeze will immediately reject any applications made in your name until you request to lift it. As this can come with a cost and take some time to reverse, it’s best to use it as a last resort. It should only be used when you’re confident that a criminal has got time-sensitive access to large volumes of money or valuable assets.
Where to get legal insurance cover in South Africa?
Identity theft might be more common these days, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer the consequences if it happens to you. With the right planning and precautions on your side, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re protected. Auto & General can offer you cover that includes identity theft and other legal services you might need. Why not contact us today to find out which one would suit you?
Feature Image: Getty