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Crime and Fraud
Monday, September 1, 2008
Blue sleuth paranoia

Speaking at a conference hosted by the The KwaZulu Natal Regional Institute of Internal Auditors , Kris Budnik, and Dominic White, of Deloitte’s Security & Privacy Services provided some alarming insight into the seedy underworld of identity theft.

It is essentially a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal information, for example, ID, or driver’s license numbers, in order to impersonate you. The information can then be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services in your name, or can be used to provide the thief with false credentials. In addition to running up debt, an impostor might also provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants in your name.
To emphasise how easy it is to get hold of this personal information, Dominic White provided three demonstrations. First, the audience was shown that just by frequenting certain websites and without providing these sites with key personal information, it is possible for cyber sleuths to learn important information about you. The information that could be accessed could range from the suburb in which you live, to other websites you frequently visit.
To further drive the point home, White moved on to his second demonstration revealing that by merely visiting a website or even simply reading an e-mail one can open oneself to the ploys of a cyber thief who can easily access and gain control of your internet browser. White then did a mock demonstration for the audience in which R1 000 000 was illegally transferred from a corporate bank account into that of Robert Mugabe’s, although fictitious, this illustration showed just how vulnerable we all are in the information age.
Finally, to emphasise that these threats do not exist in an online arena alone, White moved on to a demonstration entitled ‘handbag hacking’ where he showed how easily a cell phone could be hacked into by using Bluetooth technology. In his demonstration, sms’, phone numbers, e-mails, and even personal calendar entries were stolen with ease from a cell phone user.
With the audience sufficiently paranoid, White went on to provide some practical advice on how to thwart the attempts of information theft.
Herewith are a list of key things to be on the look out for:
You may already be a victim of identity theft if:
• Items have appeared on your bank or credit-card statements that you do not recognise;
• You’ve applied for medical or other benefits but are told that you are already claiming;
• You’ve received bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you never purchased;
• You’ve been refused a credit card or loan, despite having a good credit history;
• A mobile-phone contract has been set up in your name without your consent;
• You have received letters from lawyers or financial institutions for debts that aren’t yours;
• Mail expected from key organisations the likes of your bank have not arrived, or even if you are not receiving any mail correspondence at all’

The following tips will help you protect your identity and prevent criminals from committing fraud in your name:
• Turn off extra features in any technology that you aren’t using;
• Always think before you click or press a button; personal awareness is key;
• Don’t throw away entire bills, receipts, credit-or debit-card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. If you do need to destroy unwanted documentation, do so using a shredder if possible;
• Keep your personal documents in a safe place, such as a lockable drawer or cabinet;
• Be vigilant around what you publish about yourself, especially on internet sites;
• If your passport, ID book or driver’s licence has been lost or stolen contact the issuing organisation immediately;
• Keep your passwords safe and never record or store them in a manner that leaves them open to theft, such as in your purse or wallet;
• Check statements as soon as they arrive. If any unfamiliar transactions are listed, contact the company concerned immediately;
• Never divulge personal information via email or sms’ no matter how trustworthy the request may appear to be.

It is said that truth is often stranger than fiction, so no longer just relegated to Hollywood movies, identity theft is a very serious reality that many South Africans have and will still be faced with. In this day and age where e-mails and internet banking are the order of the day, vigilance is of the utmost importance.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:21.8 1st September, 2008
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