6 ways to prevent identity theft

6 ways to prevent identity theft6 ways to prevent identity theft

Isn’t it great being able to do everything online? 

Whether you’re buying a sofa, signing up for a course, or just grocery shopping — you can get whatever you need in just a few clicks from the comfort of your home. 

But there’s a dark side to making online purchases — the risk of identity theft.

Identity theft happens when hackers use malicious software, phishing scams, or other tactics to obtain sensitive data and use them for fraudulent activity. This includes credit card details, passwords, tax IDs, and social security numbers. 

You’ve probably heard of identity theft or may have even experienced it yourself. After all, 36% of South Africans say identity fraud is a greater concern than any other kind of theft, and 17% have already fallen victim to it. 

It’s hardly surprising, given the vast amounts of personal data online — which is estimated at 1.2 million terabytes.

Your data is collected and stored every time you use a social media platform or a website, making it all too easy for your personal information to end up in the wrong hands.

If you want to know how to keep your data safe, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll share our top five strategies for preventing identity theft and reveal the most common types to look out for.

6 ways to prevent identity theft

You can never fully eliminate the risk of online fraud — unless you go off-grid and stop participating in online life altogether. 

However, there are ways to reduce the risk of malicious parties getting their hands on your private information. Here are six strategies you can start using today to protect yourself and your loved ones against identity theft.

1. Set up alerts for transactions

Most banks and financial service providers have options to set up alerts and notifications for any movement in your accounts, including deposits, withdrawals, and other transactions. 

Activate the notifications on your smartphone so you can be immediately informed if any suspicious activity occurs. If a fraudulent payment goes out, you’ll be able to notify your bank and take immediate action.

2. Create secure passwords and security questions

We have so many passwords it’s impossible to remember them all — which is why many people use the same passwords across multiple accounts. But the problem with that is it makes a security breach much more likely. 

Strong passwords are long, complex, and unique. Make sure all your passwords are at least 15 characters long and contain a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Better yet — using a passphrase (i.e., two or three words) will make your password even harder to hack.

If you struggle to remember multiple passwords (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), use a password manager such as LastPass to keep them safe.

When setting security questions, make sure the answer is something only you can know and not something a thief can find on Google — such as your date of birth or zip code.

You can also use two-step authentication to add an extra level of security in the event your password gets hacked.

3. Use antivirus software

One way hackers access your personal data is by installing malicious software — known as malware or ransomware — onto your computer’s operating system, giving them access to everything on your hard drive. 

Using reliable security software such as Bitdefender, Norton, or McAfee can ramp up your cybersecurity and help keep your information safe.

4. Shred confidential documents

Many banks and credit card providers no longer issue paper statements. However, if you still receive hard copies of your statements, you should either file them safely in a locked cabinet or shred them before putting them in the trash. 

5. Review your statements regularly

You wouldn’t necessarily notice right away if someone hacked your bank account or credit card. Thieves often start with small transactions to see if they can get away with them before scaling up to bigger purchases.

Fortunately, most banks and financial service providers now use mobile apps, making it easier than ever to monitor your statements from your mobile device.

Make sure you know your statement cycles and follow up if you don't receive statements on time.

6. Freeze your credit

Freezing your credit with credit bureaus — like Experian or Equifax — prevents would-be thieves from opening a new credit line, such as a credit card or loan. 

Freezing your credit is a good idea if you’re the victim of a data breach that exposes your social security number since lenders won’t be able to access your credit information.

The 4 main types of identity theft

Forewarned is forearmed, as they say — and if you want to prevent identity theft, it’s important to know what you’re up against. 

There are many different traps an unsuspecting internet user could trip and fall into, so you should always keep your wits about you. While the following list isn’t exhaustive, it covers some of the most common online hoodwinks.

1. Credit theft

Credit theft is when an identity thief uses your personal information, such as your birth date and social security number, to apply for a credit line. 

2. Child identity theft

In this case, the identity thief uses a minor’s personal information to apply for credit in their name. 

This type of theft is particularly insidious because it often goes unnoticed for a long time — for example, until the child is old enough to apply for a student loan. 

3. Taxpayer identity theft

With taxpayer identity theft, the thief files a tax return in your name and runs off with your money. 

4. Medical identity theft

This is when the identity thief uses your identity to apply for healthcare. This is dangerous because they mix their medical history with yours and doctors may make critical decisions about your health based on inaccurate information.

Stay safe online with Chipper Cash

No transaction — whether online or offline — will ever be entirely risk-free. However, you can significantly reduce your risk of identity theft by using a secure, transparent financial service. 

Here at Chipper Cash, we take your safety seriously. That’s why, when you create an account with us, we’ll verify your identity for security. And with our @ChipperTags feature, you can always be 100% sure you’re sending money to the right person.

If you need a financial service that allows you to send money across borders instantly, why not join 4 million other Africans and sign up for Chipper Cash? You’ll be able to start sending secure, lightning-fast payments — absolutely free.