If you discover that you have become the victim of identity theft, Identity Guard advises you to:

* Report the incident to the police, and obtain a case number.

* Report the incident to the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) by sending a text message with the word “PROTECTID” to 43366 and someone will call you back. You will need to provide SAFPS with your case number.

* Report to the main credit bureaus that you have been a victim of fraud as a result of identity theft. Do this immediately via phone and then send follow-up emails.

The main bureaus are CompuScan, Experian, TransUnion and XDS.

* Contact all the credit providers affected by the fraud by phone and in writing.

* After the matter has been resolved, notify all the credit bureaus in writing, detailing the status of resolution with the institutions and credit providers.

If this sounds too much like hard work, there are companies that will help you to monitor your credit report more closely to prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.

In the event of someone obtaining credit in your name, Identity Guard will deploy a forensic investigator to deal with the credit providers concerned, as well as any debt collectors.

Once the investigation is over, you will be provided with a report and resolution letters from the credit providers affected, placing it on record that you were the victim of fraud. This is called a “restitution service”.

Identity Guard works closely with the SAFPS to help clients who have been victims of identity theft to place their names on the SAFPS’s database.

Alain Hewetson, the chief executive of Identity Guard, says SAFPS data is shared with the credit bureaus so that, if a credit provider performs an enquiry on a credit profile to assess a consumer’s creditworthiness, it will see that the consumer has been flagged as a victim of fraud in the past. The credit provider should then take extra precautions to ensure that the person applying for credit is in fact the consumer and not a fraudster.

The company also offers a “proactive service” that helps you to monitor who is viewing your credit report, to make sure it is only those who have authorisation.

You receive SMS alerts notifying you when any person or company performs an enquiry on your TransUnion credit report and when new accounts are opened in your name.

You also receive unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report and credit score for one year.

If you detect anything suspicious on your credit report, Identity Guard will investigate on your behalf. It costs R29 a month to subscribe to the restitution and daily monitoring service.

Financially Free, in association with Experian, offers a similar service for R69 a year, although the consumer is sent one free customised credit report. The report, which uses Experian’s data, is unlike any other credit report in that it gives the consumer an interpretation of his or her consumption of credit and flags what could be reckless lending or reckless borrowing.

Financially Free’s monitoring service notifies you when any changes are made to your profile – such as a change of residential address or employer, or when a judgment is listed against you – and who made it, as well as when an enquiry is made. Financially Free does not offer a restitution service, but it can help you if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.