Desperate but not doff!
On the same day that Trevor Manuel was quoted in the news about the debt trap that South Africans are facing (http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Manuel-Too-many-caught-in-debt-trap-20111103) I found a flyer on my car offering me a loan of anything from R3000 to R100000. The flyer stated that “Government Employees and Private Sector are welcome. Garnish (sic) and blacklisted welcome. Salary must be paid into bank account.” All you need to apply is the following: • SA ID document (just a copy according to them) • Latest original pay slip • 3 months bank statement showing the latest salary deposit So far nothing seems to out of the ordinary but then there was the following “clincher”. “To speed up the process, kindly fax your documentation or sms your name, surname, ID no, gross and nett salary, company name and bank name to:-“ Co-incidentally, I also attended a workshop on personal digital security in the same week that I received the flyer and my immediate response to the flyer was “you want me to fax my information to a complete stranger?” We have no idea how big identity theft is or just how much of our personal information is in the public domain and how easily accessible this is to “identity thieves”. There are people who are employed (in normal 9-5 jobs) whose sole task is to trawl the internet to see if they can get hold of information like this that they can then use or sell to someone else who can then use it. This particular loan company may well be a “legitimate” outfit and it is also unlikely that anyone who is this indebted has much in the way of “credit” that is worth stealing, but anyone who is willing to part with this amount of information to a stranger without even having met them is asking to have their identity stolen. I hope that despite being desperate, South Africans are at least not doff. We need to be much more vigilant about the amount and content of information that we publish or even throw into the rubbish bin. Start with something like your Facebook account – make sure that there is no “sensitive” information that can be harvested from your profile. Change your banking passwords every 6 months (and register for the sms alert service that notifies you each time there is a transaction on your account). Make sure that when you pay by credit card that it never leaves your site (it is quite a simple matter to get your card and cvv numbers). Better still, make sure that you have a credit card with a pin number. If you store your bank account numbers and passwords on your computer (like most of us do) then make sure that your virus software is kept updated and that your folder with all this information is encrypted.
This artcile was published in Finweek 11 November 2011