Identity theft occurs when someone obtains and uses information that personally identifies you, without your permission, to commit fraudulent transactions. The information may be your name, credit card number, Bank Verification Number etc.
Typical signs of identity theft include:
- Purchases not made by you that appear on your monthly bills
- Bills arrive from unknown accounts
- Collection agency calls about unknown debt
- Credit card/bank statements do not arrive
- Credit application is turned down, for reasons that do not match your understanding of your financial position
- Financial account statements show withdrawals or transfers that you did not make
- Your credit report shows mysterious debts
The following precautions will help reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Never give personal information by phone, over the internet, or by mail unless you are absolutely sure of the authenticity of the contact. E.g. ensure that while using internet banking the Verisign logo is present.
- If you do not understand why someone has requested your personal information, do not give it to them unless they provide a legitimate reason for doing so but never give the pin number to your ATM card.
- Review your financial statements in a thorough and prompt manner, and make sure to report any errors to your financial institution.
- Request a copy of your credit report each year, and ensure the information is correct.
- Shield your PIN, and never lend cards.
- Immediately report missing credit or debit cards.
- Carry only the ID you need at all times.
- Put other ID documents (BVN, birth certificate, and passport) in a safe place.
- Shred documents that contain personal information.
- Ask about the security of your information at work, with businesses and charities.
- If you are away from home, have a trusted neighbor pick up your mail.
However, in the event that you actually become a victim of identity theft, financial experts advise that the following steps should be taken immediately:
- Contact any institution directly affected. For example, contact credit cards issuers when lost/stolen.
- Place a fraud alert in available media outlets to avoid further damage. Where possible, you can also put a fraud alert on your credit reports so that subsequent users will use them with precaution.
- Keep physical records of your transactions thereafter.
- File a report with the nearest police station or department responsible for such cases.