Keep your money safe—avoid identity theft
By PETER KAMURI
In the recent past, media has been dominated by news on people losing their money through mobile money transfer services.
Not long ago, cases of theft through credit cards were also dominant.
Other reported cases have involved someone’s bank account being fraudulently invaded resulting to money loss.
Most of these cases occur through identity theft and these incidences are very common today. Although probably so far you may not have been a victim, it simply does not mean it cannot happen to you. It can happen to anyone.
Identity theft is a situation where a person uses someone else’s identification documents or other identifiers deceptively with a goal to pose as that person with an aim to defraud.
Most of the identity theft fraudsters will steal your identification to be involved in financial impropriety, sneakily hack into your computer or commit other related crimes.
Identity thieves are "very" crafty and can use methods you can least expect. For instance, they can send you an email that looks like it comes from your bank or somebody you know. Such an email can easily dupe you into giving out personal information and bank details to fraudsters.
While each one of us work hard to make money to cater for our daily expenses, we have a responsibility to ensure that we live to enjoy the benefits of our labour.
But what would happen if you discovered that someone has secretively accessed your bank account and made away with all your savings? Jane Njeri, a trader at Gikomba market says she will never forget how she lost Sh20,000 through a mobile money transfer service.
She remembers receiving a call advising her that she had won Sh200,000 in a "promotion" that was going although she had not participated in.
"To redeem my money, the soft spoken man told me to carry out a series of steps that involved keying in some information on my phone and then send the same to him," says Njeri.
"After some time, I received a confirmation text message telling me that Sh20,000 had been transferred to another account from my account.
I was surprised as I had not authorised such a transaction. It is then that I learnt that I had been duped," says Njeri.
She is not the only victim of this crafty business. Justus Obiero, a tutor in a city college went through an almost similar experience a few years ago. "I lost my ATM card in an unclear circumstance. Within three days, Sh90,000 had been withdrawn from my account before I advised the bank to block the card," he says.
Mr Obiero says he cannot tell how the fraudsters cracked into his my PIN.
"However, I have never ruled out an inside job," says Obiero.
Experts say protecting yourself against identity theft should be a top priority. This is because all of us are susceptible to this game of cons.
They say we should minimise chances of it happening to us. However, how can you protect yourself?
"Always avoid giving out personal information to strangers. Occasionally, you may receive a call from people purporting to be your service providers.
Be careful before you share with them your personal information. Ensure you are familiar with the number to call your service provider if you want to confirm whether the caller is authentic," Sylvester Kadzo, a mobile services provider.
Kadzo adds: "It is important to ensure that you do not put personal information, other than your name, together with your ATMs, credit card and cheque book. Your PIN should not be anywhere near your documents."
When using your ATM, Kadzo warns, you should ensure that you have the privacy you deserve. You should make sure that nobody is watching over you as some identity thieves prowl on unsuspecting people when they are making withdrawals.
"Before you throw away any sensitive document like bank slips and your PIN number, shred it. Your personal information can easily land into the wrong hands if carelessly discarded," cautions Kadzo.
Experts say people should avoid using PIN that one can easily guess. Some people use their year of birth or their first-born child’s year of birth as their PIN.
"Regularly get your bank statements. Check whether it is consistent with the transactions you have carried over the period in question. You never know when a fraudster can encroach your account and steal your money," he says.
Kadzo further says: "Avoid mailing sensitive document using ordinary method. Such mails should be registered. In case your receive an unexpected email, SMS or a phone call, you can call back to find out whether its authentic."
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