As the country gradually transits to a Smart Nation, Singaporeans are becoming increasingly digitally savvy and reliant on the convenience of technology. Many of us prefer to complete a wide range of everyday tasks on a smart device, be it paying for utility bills or making online purchases for daily essentials. While majority of these payment processes are now seamless and safer than in the past, the risk of identity fraud still remains, hence extra effort should be made to protect your identity on the internet.
Identity theft is a serious crime and occurs when someone wrongfully obtains and uses another individual’s personal data fraudulently. In many cases, the victim’s losses may include not only out-of-pocket financial losses (such as credit card charged run up in the victim’s account) but additional financial costs associated with correcting erroneous information or actions for which the criminal is responsible.
Distressing forms of identity theft tend to result when someone swipes not just your card but also your entire financial persona. With enough personal verification information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual’s identity to conduct a wide range of crimes such as false applications for loans and credit cards, fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts or obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminals might be denied if they were to use their real name.
According to Singapore’s Annual Crime Brief 2020, “The total number of scam cases reported increased by 65.1% to 15,756 cases in 2020, from 9,545 cases in 2019.” Singapore Police Force (SPF) mentioned that the increase was primarily due to the rise in scam cases, with online scams seeing a significant increase as Singaporeans stayed home and carried out more online transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report also states that among the top ten scam types, e-commerce scams, social media impersonation scams, loan scams and banking related phishing scams are of particular concern, as they constituted 68.1% of the top ten scam types reported in 2020.
Prevention Tips to Safeguard against Identity Theft
Using Secured Devices
One of the most important ways to protect yourself from identity fraud is to exclusively use trusted and protected devices on websites or applications that handle your personal information or online transactions. Such websites include: social media, online marketplaces, government agency websites etc. To keep your devices secured, do not open suspicious websites, emails or downloads. It is also advisable to run scheduled virus protection scans regularly. By using trusted and protected devices, you can be sure that your device will not be compromised or be vulnerable to security phishing.
In addition to using trusted and protected devices, security measures can be strengthened by using secured log-in details. Passphrases, instead of passwords, should be long, complex and unique. By using a combination of lower-case letters, upper-case letters, special characters and numbers, you can generate a complex and secured passphrase. Avoid using the same passphrases on multiple websites or applications because doing so will increase your vulnerability.
You should also enable the Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA is a layer of security in addition to your username and passphrase. Common 2FA methods today include an SMS verification code or a biometric verification. It is an excellent way of preventing hackers from accessing your personal data. By using secured log-in, you can greatly reduce your risk of identity fraud.
Avoid Sharing Information Carelessly
With the countless volume of advertisements, promotional giveaways and online campaigns today, it can be easy to give your personal particulars to others unknowingly. Be extra cautious when signing up with foreign platforms, you should take note of their data protection policies and be discerning with the data you divulge. Such caution should also be practiced outside of the digital world as your personal information is used as a layer of verification for banks and financial institutions, it is best to not share carelessly especially on social media.
Stay Alert for Signs of Identity Theft, which can include:
Failing to receive bills or other mail. This could mean that an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks
Receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for
Being denied credit for no apparent reason
Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy
This article was contributed by Credit Bureau Singapore.