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The definitive guide to what to do if you lost your ID, passport, credit card or cell phone

Andrew Thompson , Business Insider SA
 Jan 26, 2020, 08:24 AM
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  • Losing an ID, passport, credit card and cell phone is more than a bureaucratic nightmare.
  • But identity theft and fraud go hand-in-hand and are a both a big problem in South Africa.
  • Business Insider South Africa find out how you can respond when you misplace or are otherwise relieved of an ID document or card, passport, credit card, or cellphone in South Africa.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinesInsider.co.za.

Losing an identity document, passport, credit card or cell phone is more than a bureaucratic nightmare - these items are of significant value to fraudsters and identity thieves.

Fraud and identity theft often go hand-in-hand, and both are a massive problem in South Africa. 

There are in excess of 62 000 confirmed cases of identity fraud currently sitting with the South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS). And credit card fraud in South Africa is only getting worse - according to the Ombudsman of Banking Services credit card fraud increased from 12.2% to 19.47% in the first quarter of 2019. 

The starting point for many of these cases is via a phishing scam or online data breach - but if a criminal to gets hold of on an important document, card, or cellphone, he or she can also wreak havoc. Losing a document or cellphone isn’t just a bureaucratic nightmare - it can give access to your banking apps, lead to a ruined credit record, and illegal card purchases.

This is how to respond when you misplace or are otherwise relieved of an ID document or card, passport, credit card, or cellphone in South Africa.


Identity Document or Passport

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File a report at your local police station immediately after the loss or theft. You’ll need an affidavit when applying for your replacement document, and this can also serve as a form of identification while you await your replacement.

If you’re replacing a lost or stolen passport you’ll want to be explicit about the wording of your affidavit - if the loss was your fault, you’ll need to pay double the normal fee to replace it.

It would be wise to notify your financial institution of the loss as soon as possible - some banks can flag your account for any suspicious activities. Also contact the South African Fraud Prevention Service for advice - they can help by notifying relevant authorities and organisations.

You’ll then need to visit your local office of the Department of Home Affairs to apply for a replacement ID or passport. 

If you are replacing your ID document or card, you can request a Temporary Identification Certificate at a cost of R70. This will serve as proof of identity while Home Affairs is processing your new ID. 

For Smart IDs, you’ll need to visit an office with a live capture system - the Home Affairs website has a full list of these offices, including contact details.

With Smart IDs an official from Home Affairs will capture photographs in the branch as part of the fee. Replacing a lost, stolen or damaged ID costs R140.

If you lose a passport in South Africa, you’ll need to follow the steps for renewing your passport, as well as submit lost passport form DHA-335. Home Affairs no longer issues temporary passports - though in the event of a lost or stolen document you may be able to apply for an emergency travel certificate.

If you lose your South African passport abroad, you must make contact with the nearest South African embassy or consulate. In this case, you’ll need to provide some alternate proof of identification, such as a driver’s license or smart ID card.

The cost of renewing or replacing a passport is R400 - but if you lost it through your own negligence, you’ll need to pay R800.


Credit Card

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All South African banks have departments that handle lost card and fraud. If you lose your credit card or are the victim of fraud you should call them immediately. 

Some banks also have the option to report lost cards directly through official banking apps and websites. 

The process varies slightly according to each bank, but in general you’ll need to supply them with your ID or card number to commence the process. They will supply you with a reference number in response - which you should keep safe for future administration purposes. Should anyone use your card for fraudulent transactions, you’ll need this number to prove that you contacted the lost card department . 

The bank will then prevent any transactions on this card, and often on linked bank accounts. You’ll then need to apply for a new card which carries a new number. This can lead to complications if you are travelling abroad, as getting a replacement card is difficult when you’re not able to visit your local bank in person.

Notify your bank if you identify any suspicious activity on your bank accounts subsequent to the incident - most have a window period for reporting fraud, and the sooner you notify the bank, the better your chances of recovering lost funds.


Cellphone

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There’s more hassle to losing a cellphone than the unit’s replacement cost. Cunning thieves are able to access sensitive personal information which they may hold ransom - and they may even be able to access your bank accounts and purchase items via installed apps.

Although most banking apps require an additional password, there have been reports that thieves are able to bypass these - apparently by using phishing techniques once they have the phone in their possession.

It’s also possible for thieves to make purchases via apps - such as those for e-hailing and food delivery services, or even for online shops where the app is installed and credit card details saved.

And if you typically rely on two-factor authentication to protect your bank and other accounts linked to your phone, the criminals can also bypass this, given that most cellphones serve as the second device used to authenticate access or receive one time pins.

Most phones come bundled with tracking software, which you can use to locate or lock down your phone in the event of loss or theft. This also allows you to backup, and then wipe your device - which you should do immediately. 

Once you’ve wiped your device, change all your passwords for accounts you had on your device - this is particularly critical with regards to email, banking, and social media, as well as apps that allow you to make purchases without reinserting credit card details.

If you believe thieves will have access to banking or payment apps, contact your bank immediately and stop all transactions on those cards as you would if you lost the cards themselves.

Then contact your cellphone service provider and alert them to the loss - they can help you blacklist your phone and advise you on the next steps to take.

After the initial panic of locking and wiping your device, you’ll need to report the loss or theft at your local police station, particularly if you’ve noticed fraudulent activity or wish to lodge an insurance claim.

Security experts suggest that users always log out of apps after use, and lock phones with strong passwords and activate biometric options - although the increasing prevalence of stealing active phones, such as those from people waiting for the arrival of an Uber, makes password irrelevant. 

It’s also important to familiarise yourself with your phone’s built-in tracking and mobile erase features in order to finalise this aspect immediately after the incident.


How to identify and deal with identity theft

It’s often difficult to confirm if you’ve been the victim of identity theft before it’s too late - it’s typically only when a significant fraudulent transaction takes place that victims become aware. 

But in the build up to this, there may be smaller signs - unfamiliar, low-value transactions on bank statements, approval for credit you didn’t request, alerts to change of details or ownerships, or being blacklisted even though your credit record is in otherwise good standing.

Thieves might also use their newly acquired identity to register vehicles into or out of your name - if you suspect this is the case, renew your car license and change your registration number at your local traffic department.

Many cases of identity theft are linked to credit applications, and so it’s important to check your credit report regularly. You can do so free, once a year, via TransUnion

If you have been the victim of identity theft, you should alert the fraud units of all credit bureaus - they can add an alert to your account in this regard. If you’ve been blacklisted as a result of the theft, you’ll need to alert them in writing, with your SAPS reference number, in order to begin the process of clearing your name.

The South African Fraud Prevention Service will also be able to assist - you can register lost of stolen documents on their database at no cost, and they will alert financial institutions if your identity number has been compromised. You should also report any cases of suspected identity theft to them immediately via telephone, on 0860 101 248.

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