Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Constant vigilance is the key to avoiding identity theft. Be aware of the value of information you have around you and how
it could be used by someone as the first step to taking over your identity. There can be no guarantees, but if you stick to the
following guidelines, you should be reasonably safe from identity theft:
• Don't give out personal information on the phone unless you initiated the contact. If someone calls you, don't tell them
your code words or any other details you would usually use to identify yourself to them. If necessary, call them back
using a number you obtained from their web site or a telephone directory. Do not call back using a number they give
• Confirm you are dealing with a legitimate organisation before providing any information.
• Don’t just discard receipts, statements, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, doctors statements, cheques and
bank statements, expired debit and credit cards and any credit or insurance offers received in the post. Rather tear these
up, or better still, shred them, before discarding them.
• Make sure any personal information in your home is locked up so that anyone working at your house can't find it.
• Make sure you keep your personal belongings at work locked in a safe place.
• Be aware of your account billing cycles. Follow up if any of your statements don't arrive when expected.
• Check your bank and credit card statements for purchases that you did not make.
• Periodically review your credit record and report fraudulent activity.
• Where possible, put passwords on your credit card, bank and other accounts, and ensure that they’re not something
obvious such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, or your phone number – all of these can be easily
• When ordering new cheque books or credit cards, ask if you can collect them at the bank rather than having them
• Try to take any outgoing mail to a post office rather than to your nearest post box.
• When online, if you provide personal information (e.g. when accessing your bank website), be sure that the SSL
Secure (yellow lock) icon is present at the bottom of your browser. The lock icon indicates that your web connection
should be secure.
• Check an organisation's website by typing its URL, rather than cutting and pasting it from an email you have received.
• Ensure that your PC, at home and at work, and your cell-phone, has up to date virus protection.
• Check that your firm has a firewall. If not, use a personal firewall on your PC.
• Never open files or attachments sent to you by an unknown person or even someone you know, unless you were
expecting them. If you didn't expect it, don't open it. An innocuous joke game might be a “Trojan horse” program that
records all your passwords and emails them to the attacker.
• Password-protect any personal financial information stored on your computer.
• If you change jobs, make sure you delete all personal information stored on any computers you have used.
• When composing an email, make certain it doesn’t contain vital information about yourself or others – no ID numbers,
no user names, no passwords, no account information. If you must send this via email, send it inside an attachment
• Some fax machines still use carbon paper. These machines make a duplicate of everything that goes through. So
remember, just because you shred paper, doesn’t mean that everything is gone.
• If a vendor contacts you to discuss your account, please be aware that they should have your details on file. If they
request you to verify this information, be on your guard, and do not give out any personal details, no matter how
convincing they sound.
• When selecting passwords to use on the internet, change them frequently, and try to pick things a little more
complicated than your dog’s name or what’s in the frame next to your desk. And don’t write your password on one of
those yellow Post-It notes and stick it to the keyboard.
• Most places you shop will have modernised their equipment so that it does not print the entire credit card number on
the receipt any more. However, when you go to temporary events such as sporting events and fairs and festivals, you
may find they are using older equipment, so because of that, be particularly careful not to throw your receipts away
until you’re certain about what information they contain.
Experian Phone: 0861 10 56 65
TransUnion Phone: 0861 482 482
South African Fraud Prevention Service Phone: 0860 101 248
Beware of Social Engineering techniques
• Pretext calling
• Dumpster diving
• Electronic eavesdropping
• Address changes
• Simple old-fashioned stealing/pick-pocketing
• Trojan horse computer programs
• Infiltration into large organisations
• Obtaining castings of fingerprints
• Government registers
• Internet research
• Online social networks
Leon Schutte, Open Tech
Tel (082) 780-8872