Protecting yourself from identity theft

With the POPI Act soon to be enacted here in South Africa, corporate companies will have been implementing measures to ensure their processing of client and employee information is kept secure; or destroyed in a legal, correct and adequate manner.

What the Act brings to light too however, is awareness for everyone regarding the protection of our own personnel information. Fellowes, a leading brand globally and here in South Africa offers advice to consumers regarding specific issues and weak access points which could trip you up.

 

Clutter

Whether it’s old handbags or boxes which you just ‘haven’t found the time to throw out yet’ they need to go. Although those old passports and pay slips may no longer be of use to you, by no means implies that they won’t be of great use to somebody else. It just takes one piece of information to build a bigger picture of you.

Check the following places for personal information that may have been forgotten about:

* Handbags – current and old ones. Look out for old receipts, bank cards and other personal documents that may be being stored in them.

* Window sills – If you can see out, they can see in! That convenient little ledge may seem like a practical shelf but remember to keep all private documents well away.

* Console tables in the hall – research reveals that 41% of friends know what another friend’s or neighbour’s salary is having had sight of a pay slip while visiting their home. It’s probably safe to say that they didn’t catch glimpse of those numbers whilst they were being stored in a banker’s box.

* Old letter boxes – Sharing isn’t caring when it comes to post. In the time between forgetting and redirecting your mail to your new post box following a move, you’re giving somebody else the opportunity to access your private information.

 

Disposal

With all the documents you find you need to ask yourself ‘will I ever need this again?’ If the answer is no, the best solution to prevent identity fraud is to shred the documents. For extra security, be sure to use a cross-cut shredder to guarantee absolute disposal of your information. For some information, shredding isn’t an option as you may need the documents again. In this case, make sure that you file away your confidential information in a safe place such as a banker’s box.

 

Top tips for shredding

Rule number one: don’t let the shredding pile build up like the ironing pile! If you don’t shred as you go, you will end up making it very easy for fraudsters to access your information as it will all be in one place

Secondly, unlike ironing (depending on who you are) shredding can be quite fun and therapeutic. If your shredder has a safety lock, this is a job that you can pass onto the kids to help with.

 

Why is shredding so important?

New research commissioned by Fellowes reveals alarming statistics around complacency in homes:

* More than half of those households surveyed confirmed that they have seen private documents in a friend’s or neighbour’s house whilst visiting;

* Thirty eight per cent of respondents are aware of the amount of credit owned by friends and neighbours having seen a statement of account from a mortgage lender or bank left on the side;

* As much as 41% of those surveyed have their passwords written down ‘somewhere’;

* Almost a quarter (24%), forget to shred confidential documents consistently and 12% admit to throwing bank statements and other important documents straight into the bin; and

* 29% of people share their pin number with one or more people.

 

Get shredding

A bit of friendly competition is always good fun, so why not challenge your household or workplace to a ‘Shred It’ challenge. The rules are simple, all contestants must find as many documents as possible which need to be shredded and the person with the biggest pile of shredded paper in the end wins (we’ll leave the prizes to you).

Let the adults do the shredding and give the younger member of the family the shredded paper to make fun things for the family.

Also, with Halloween just around the corner, a little imagination could turn that pile of shredded paper into anything from a spider’s web to the contents of a witch’s cauldron.

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