Kigali. Tuesday, 14 September 2020 – Global information and insights company TransUnion has warned Rwandese to be on their guard against COVID-19-related scams, with criminals taking advantage of the increased number of people looking for information about the disease to defraud them or steal their personal details.
Emile Kinuma, CEO of TransUnion Rwanda, said cybercriminals were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as a screen for their activities, sending emails and text messages from seemingly legitimate organisations with information about COVID-19. In the past few months in Rwanda, fraudsters have been creating a unique number of websites each day related to the virus.
Once people click on the links in emails or text messages, they unknowingly download software which allows cybercriminals to take control of their computers and access their personal information and financial data, which could lead to identity theft. On the websites, they are scammed into buying fake or non-existent products.
“While identity theft is not yet a huge problem in Rwanda, according, to our TransUnion research, a few consumers have fallen victim to identity theft, or know someone who has. The problem with this type of crime is that victims only find out about the theft months later – by which time fraudsters have obtained false lines of credit and racked up significant debt in their name,” said Kinuma.
To avoid turning the already-challenging times into a long and stressful fight to reclaim your stolen identity, follow these tips to protect yourself against identity theft.
Never click on a link, or provide your sensitive information
Phishing is a major part of identity theft and fraud, warned Kinuma. “You’ll get an official-looking email from a bank or other organisation, offering you information or asking you to verify some aspect of your account. Don’t do it. No reputable company will ever ask you to verify details by clicking on a link in an email,” he said.
Stick to legitimate sites for online shopping
The restrictions in movement have resulted in a surge in online shopping, as people look to buy everything from groceries to books to airtime. “Check that there’s an ‘https’ in the web address and an icon of a locked padlock on the left side of the URL. The ‘s’ stands for secure and means the site can be trusted. Don’t just click on links in mails offering you ‘too-good-to-be-true’ deals: check it out first,” said Kinuma.
Secure your online identity now
Make sure you have strong passwords for important accounts such as your banking, online shopping and email. Change them regularly and don’t use the same password for all your online profiles. Where possible, use two-factor authentication to make it harder for scammers to gain access to your accounts.
Keep checking your transaction alerts
The best way to check if your identity and credit is safe is to check your bank and card statements and credit reports. Fraudsters are especially active at a time of crisis, when people are distracted. Keep track of what is on your credit report for signs of suspicious activity, such as accounts that you don’t recognise or credit checks from companies with which you’ve never done business.
You have a right to a free credit report once every 12 months. Text your name and ID number to 2272 (premium SMS rates apply) to obtain a copy of your credit report.