Protect your digital identity

We constantly hear that we should protect our digital identity and be careful with our information to protect ourselves against digital identity theft.

The recent data breach on Experian made us again aware of the importance digital security. It is estimated that this breach acquired the information of 24 million people and 800 000 businesses. Following this breach banks asked their clients to change their banking log in detail as well as their social media log in details.

But how do perpetrators access your information and what are the steps you can take to protect yourself?

According to Julian Ramiah, Chief Information Security Officer at Alexander Forbes, identity theft is when criminals prey on random targets in an attempt to steal an individual’s identity (using the individual’s personal information for example their name, surname, credit card and identity numbers).

Rianette Leibowitz, cyber safety expert and author of Raising a screen savvy child, explains there are several ways in which you expose your personal information to the cyber world. She says we often give our information without thinking. “We enter into competitions, supplying our personal information without reading who will the info be distributed to. The same with surveys or the security books at the boom gates of companies or estates.” 

Julian lists a few more options:  

  • Physical theft of wallets or purses in order to obtain identification, credit and bank cards; 
  • The skimming or cloning off a Bank ATM through an electronic spy device, which is attached to the ATM, that can steal the information stored on a bank card; 
  • Dumpster diving. People who rummage through (e)mails and trash bins in search of bank statements, confidential documents that may personal and sensitive information; 
  • Organized criminal syndicates buy personal information from an insider, third party source, such as a company employee who has access to applications for credit;
  • Steal electronic records through a data breach; 
  • Phishing for electronic information using phony emails, text messages and websites that are solely designed to steal sensitive information. 

So how can you be more careful with your own information?

Rianette says you have to make sure why you have to enter your ID number when you have to do it. Sometimes the first six digits, your birth date, with be sufficient. “Try to keep your home address private as far as possible. Before you enter a competition make sure why they want the details they want.” She warns to be extra careful with information about your children.

According to Julian it is very important to dispose all your personal information securely: 

  • Tear it up or shred it. When you do online transactions, make sure you use very strong passwords and store them in a secure e-wallet.
  • Don’t leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or petrol station receipts behind (some point of sale receipts publish sensitive information that can be misused).
  • Make sure you never let your credit card out of your sight when paying for purchases. Always ask for the transaction to be processed in front of you. 
  • Remove your name off marketers’ hit lists (Direct Marketing South Africa – DMSA), you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit solicitations. 
  •  Actively monitor your credit report, obtain, and thoroughly review your credit report (from any of your financial service providers) at least 2 times a year. 
Tanya De Vente Bijker is a Media Entrepreneur

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