A massive data breach at credit bureau Experian has exposed the personal information of as many as 24 million South Africans and nearly 800 000 businesses to a suspected fraudster. File pic
A massive data breach at credit bureau Experian has exposed the personal information of as many as 24 million South Africans and nearly 800 000 businesses to a suspected fraudster. File pic

What to do if you suspect that you've been a victim of identity theft

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Aug 20, 2020

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Durban - On Wednesday, consumer, business and credit information services agency, Experian, experienced a data breach which exposed the personal information of as many as 24 million South Africans and 793 749 business entities to a suspected fraudster.

In a statement issued by the South African Banking Risk Centre, CEO Nischal Mewalall, said the compromise of personal information can create opportunities for criminals to impersonate a user but did not guarantee access to banking profiles and accounts.

"However, criminals can use this information to trick you into disclosing your confidential banking details," Mewalall said.

Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky, Maher Yamout, said such type of threats can jeopardise users’ personal information and make them subject to online identity theft and phishing attacks.

"With all of this personal data being exposed, it is a safe bet that scammers will look to use this information to their benefit. We urge all users who think they might have been affected to stay vigilant and careful online. When reading emails, social media posts, or even getting SMS, make sure that the sender is who they say they are and keep an eye out for phishing emails," Yamout said.

He also advised users to change their passwords and never use the same password for multiple accounts because if one account is jeopardised, criminals might gain access to other accounts.

Yamout added that affected users should assess the type of personal information leaked and try to replace it whenever possible to avoid potential risks.

What to do if you suspect that you've been a victim of identity theft:

Discover the source - Before you can correct the problem, it's important to know the origin of the attack. While traditional identity theft involved criminals "dumpster diving" to obtain personal information such as receipts or credit card bills, thieves are now targeting popular online services. Banking websites, online retailers and even dating sites hold a wealth of consumer information.

Start making calls - Notify your bank, financial institution and company where you think the theft occurred. File a police report.

Cover your bases - Private companies and government agencies often act quickly to help you back on track after identify theft when it comes to locking down accounts or issuing new identification. But after the initial storm has passed, you may experience long-term consequences of identity theft—your personal data may be used to file fraudulent tax returns during the next calendar year, or even several years down the line. Cybercriminals may leverage your social security number to work in other states or obtain new credit services they never intend to pay back. As a result, you may encounter issues with credit or financing in the future.

Protect your future - After criminals have stolen your identity and used it to open fraudulent accounts or make large purchases, you may encounter legal difficulties. Often, defrauded companies will report their losses to private debt collectors, who will call you and your family members looking for the money owed for "your" purchases.

Change passwords - Many people use one password and link accounts, make sure to get new passwords and change them often.

In addition to knowing how and when to react, it is important to take preventative measures: Safe Internet surfing habits, solid antivirus and Internet security solutions, effective passwords and limited credit sprawl. And while this all may sound a bit overwhelming, it pays to know what to do if your identity is stolen.

IOL

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