Beware of identity theft

WITH South Africa preparing to host the 2010 World Cup, identity theft continues to be a key strategic concern for the South African government. In fact, women are more prone to this kind of crime than men.

WITH South Africa preparing to host the 2010 World Cup, identity theft continues to be a key strategic concern for the South African government. In fact, women are more prone to this kind of crime than men.

A recent study conducted by US fraud-tracking company, Javelin Research, claims that women are 26percent more likely than men to fall victim to identity theft.

Women are also less likely to discover theft promptly, averaging 83 days to spot the signs to 45 days for men.

Javelin Research says that this can largely be explained by the differences in the general attitudes towards technology between the sexes.

While men these days largely conduct their business online, women tend to both shop and bank at physical sites, thus opening themselves up for credit card theft and denying themselves more high-tech means of security and notification.

The managing director of 1st for Women Insurance Brokers, Robyn Farrell, says they believe women put themselves at risk of ID theft every day simply because of what they carry in their handbags.

"ID books, chequebooks and even utility bills and diaries containing personal details are helpful little pieces of information for fraudsters wanting to steal your identity," Farrell says.

Farrell adds that in South Africa fraud costs the insurance industry and businesses millions of rands every year.

The only way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of ID theft is to be aware of the growing problem, guard your personal documents closely and act immediately if you notice any suspicious activity on your bank account or receive any strange phone calls or documentation about insurance on vehicles you haven't bought, retail accounts that you have never applied for or credit cards you don't have."

To avoid becoming another statistic of identity theft or fraud, 1st for Women offers the following tips:

lAlways keep your credit cards in a safe place, and check that they're there after every transaction. If they are not, call your bank immediately.

lWhen paying by credit card keep an eye on it at all times. A lot of credit card machines are not yet mobile. If you are at a restaurant and the server; takes your card, follow them to the terminal for safe-guarding.

lKeep your credit card number and security number somewhere safe and separate from your purse;

lSafeguard receipts and compare them to your bank statement; and

lReport any suspicious activity on your card as soon as possible.

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