Instances of identity theft in South Africa increased by 337% in 2020. With these startling statistics, most of us will likely experience some form of phishing attack, malware scam or even ransomware before the year is out.
There are a multitude of risks to be aware of. For instance, medical identity theft sees hackers use your information to access healthcare services. And then there are account takeover attacks where they gain access to your bank accounts, change your passwords and ensure you can no longer use them. Let us not forget criminal identity theft. In this case, someone gives the police someone else’s details when they are arrested or under investigation. Just imagine how challenging it is to clear your name from the government database when this happens.
Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to mitigate the risks of this happening.
Firstly, you must enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) in all your online banking and social media sites. MFA means a person can only access a website or applications if confirming the login on a secondary device. So, what might seem like a 30-second inconvenience when an OTP is sent to your phone or a request for confirmation is sent to an authenticator app confirming it is you trying to log in, will save you thousands of rands and countless hours in trying to recover your identity later on.
We must all start becoming more aware of the warning signs associated with phishing and spoofing. Scammers can phone you pretending to be from SARS, your medical aid company and so on. Similarly, emails might appear to be legitimate but take you to a spoofed site or download malicious software that can be run on your laptop or smartphone. It all comes down to never sharing your personal information over a phone call or email if you are not comfortable in doing so.
Install a password manager that creates and securely stores complex passwords for each of your online accounts. Sure, it might be tempting to use the same one for everything you do online but think of the consequences if that password is compromised.
With just a bit of care and extra caution, you can go a long way in protecting yourself in our connected world.
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