Do your shopping habits put you at risk? Are you exposing yourself – and your confidential information – to opportunistic fraudsters? These are questions that online shoppers should be asking themselves says Mark Chirnside, CEO of ThisIsMe, who highlights that South Africans may not be taking adequate steps to secure their online identities and personal information.

While South Africa is often regarded as lagging behind Western markets in online shopping penetration, Paypal research in fact indicates a healthy 29% growth rate will be achieved by the end of 2016, generating a whopping R37 billion in revenue.

Chirnside says, “Considering that in South Africa an identity is stolen every 29 seconds, it really brings home the fact that whether shopping or performing banking transactions, local consumers are not doing enough to secure their online identities.”

So what should South Africans be doing and in fact not be doing to ensure they mitigate the risk of falling prey to online fraudsters? Chirnside notes that there are a few basics that people should keep in mind when transacting online. They include:

  1. Don’t transact or shop on public Wi-Fi

Most places offer free Wi-Fi these days, but bear in mind that these Wi-Fi hot spots are unsecured. Rather use a 3G card or trusted infrastructure when using banking apps or shopping online in these environments. Even just checking your email or Facebook can be risky in these unsecured environments, as opportunistic fraudsters using that connection can easily access the data that you’re sending and receiving.

  1. If the website looks suspect, it probably is

First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that the site offers a secure payment connection, if not, it’s best not to purchase anything. Also, if you’ve never bought from or heard of a site before ask around or do research before just going ahead and buying anything. It’s also best to go with your gut. If the website looks scrappy and unprofessional, rather opt to purchase from a reputable online retailer.

  1. Opt for safety rather than convenience when it comes to storing online information

While it may be more convenient to store your banking information with the online retailer so you don’t have to complete the online form every time you purchase something, it also increases the risk of your personal information falling into the wrong hands. It may be more time consuming but at the end of the day it’s far safer to enter your personal information every time you purchase something.

  1. Change up your online passwords

It’s always better to create a unique password for each of your online accounts. If you’re someone that struggles to remember passwords, there are a number of apps available created to assist you with just that. Remember that using the same password for all the sites and accounts you frequent means that should a fraudster crack your ‘code’, they can access all of your other accounts as well.

“At the end of the day it’s really about remaining consistently cautious regarding who you give your personal information to.

“And while abiding by these four basic tips will help decrease your chances of someone stealing your personal information, people still need to remain ever-vigilant as resourceful, tech-smart fraudsters are continually coming up with new ways to gain access to accounts and identities for personal gain,” adds Chirnside.

However, the good news is that innovative technology platform, ThisIsMe, is allowing businesses and individuals to not only ensure people are really who they say they are but also verify that the person is still alive.

“Essentially by using links to Home Affairs and the major banks, ThisIsMe gives a heartbeat to your identity, and for the first time South Africans have a way to conclusively prove the identity of others. In addition to a business solution ThisIsMe has also designed a user-friendly app (available free of charge on Apple and Android app stores).

“However, ultimately if you’re not 100% certain about disclosing personal information online, don’t do it!” concludes Chirnside.


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