“I lost my wallet that contained my identification card, debit and credit cards while out shopping. Three months later, I received a call from a bank on outstanding payment on a loan I never signed up for!”

Identity theft is a serious matter and needs to be urgently addressed.

Essentially, identity theft involves the illegal use of your personal information including your name, date of birth, address and other details used to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards and loans, start an illegal business and even commit serious crimes.

Identity theft occurs through outright stealing to gain your personal information, phishing (email), vishing (call) or smishing (text) as well as hacking your computer, smartphone or other mobile devices.

A consumer survey done by Experian Information Services (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd in 2016 showed that 14% of the respondents experienced identity theft, while 26% knew someone who had been a victim. Most often, we discover this too late and we are left with the painful process of clearing our name which could take up to several months or even years to complete.

While 70% admitted to knowing of credit reports, only 28% took the trouble to view theirs and of these who viewed, only 30% did it when their credit application was rejected. And, 13% suspected that it could be identity theft.

One reason why identity theft happens is because thieves could apply for loans or credit cards using victim’s identity. These transactions if goes undetected will not show up on any bill until the loans are approved and paid out to the thief and repayment bill is sent to the victim.

Here are some steps on protecting yourself:

  1. Do not log-on to personal and financial accounts or even shop online while using public Wi-Fi. Encrypt and password protect your internet services at home.
  2. Never write down your passwords and keep them in places such as in your phone or wallets. The best thing is to remember them by keeping them in your head. Ensure your passwords are well-protected and if possible, change them every month. Consider using numbers and symbols in your password.
  3. If you frequently use online services for shopping and banking, be alert for phishing, where so called “banks” or “businesses” try to obtain your personal information once you click on pop-ups when you’re online. If possible, disable the pop-ups application on your browser as people can spy on you or track your movements.
  4. Never give out your personal details to people you don’t know, either in person or over the phone. If you receive a call from someone you don’t know who claims to be from your bank, never give them your details. Instead, call back the organisation and confirm if there really was a call made to you.
  5. Monitor your bank and credit accounts regularly to ensure the purchases or transactions made are legitimate. If you detect suspicious transactions, do alert your bank immediately. In addition, do check on inactive or dormant accounts to make sure you have not been compromised.
  6. Sign Up for a credit report and scrutinise your credit report once a month or at least, once annually for any unauthorised activity. For more comprehensive protection, do think about subscribing to Experian’s as it checks and monitors your credit report daily and provides alerts on important changes made.
  7. It is better to apply credit card or any loans directly with the banks and not via a third party who usually promises special “gifts”. These third party vendors will usually ask for all your details — salary slip, EPF/income tax and copy of identity cards — to be emailed or WhatsApp to them. Never do that.

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If you do become a victim of identity theft, here’s what you must do:

  1. Contact the affected entity or organisation(s), for instance your bank if you have detected an unauthorised transaction on your credit card or even a loan you didn’t sign up for.
  2. Make a police report as a crime has been committed. This is important to enable further investigations to be conducted.
  3. Work closely with the respective authorities and the relevant organisations to clear your name and get back on your feet.
  4. Review all of your other accounts (even the inactive ones) and charge all account passwords to be stronger ones to avoid history repeating itself.

To avoid all of the above and to protect your credit health, it’s not a bad idea to subscribe to a credit monitoring tool such as JagaMyID for a peace of mind. It detects any suspicious activity or discrepancy in your account and can prevent against any identity theft.

Be diligent, protect your personal information or suffer the consequences.

You may visit, www.mycreditinfo.com.my to know more about the tools available to prevent any identity theft