According to the Guardian Newspaper, the number of victims of identity theft in Nigeria increased massively since 2020z and has since grown to improve two years after that, with no hopes of any significant changes in sight. A crucial figure which should encourage people to protect themselves against fraud by adopting good reflexes. But concretely, what are the risks involved? How do you protect yourself as online identification spreads? How to ensure that none of your data is used for fraudulent purposes? Overview of good practices.
What is meant by identity theft?
Identity theft is the act of appropriating the personal information of a third party (surname and first name, bank identifiers, etc.) to commit acts or obtain services under their identity.
A usurper, therefore, pretends to be you, uses your information, then misuses it. For example :
- to open a bank account in your name and take out a loan without having to repay it;
- to withdraw money from your account;
- to commit misdemeanors or crimes without assuming criminal responsibility;
- to damage your reputation.
Although it has always existed, this scourge is spreading even more rapidly with the growing use of the web and the use of online purchases, through new methods such as phishing. Thus, a usurper pretends to be your bank or your telephone operator by email or SMS to illegally obtain your personal information.
It also happens, with the development of social networks, that a stranger uses your name, your first name, your pseudonym, or your photos to distribute content, obtain information, or money from other people in your name and without your permission.
What are the consequences of identity theft?
Malicious use of your personal information can have several consequences…
- If your financial information is stolen: the consequences can be serious for your wallet! You can, for example, find yourself with an overdrawn account or unjustified debts, be stuck at the Bank, or be considered guilty of fraud in social benefits that you have not received.
- If your identity is used to commit crimes: you may be accused by the courts of an offense or a crime that you did not commit. In some cases, victims of identity theft see their social security card and their identity used for prescriptions of drugs whose use is controlled, often to resell them.
Finally, whatever the form, the usurpation of your identity can oblige you to justify yourself in court, to start heavy administrative procedures to repair the damage caused. The risks are very present and can have an impact on mental health, even pushing some victims to seek medical or psychological help.
Concretely, how to protect yourself from identity theft: A few tips to apply
Here are our practical tips to avoid identity theft in everyday life:
- Never provide identity documents or any other sensitive documents, except to companies or people you know and can trust.
- Carefully check the various emails you receive, and find out if you have any doubts about its sender or origin.
- Be sure to destroy any document containing identifying information before discarding it.
- Never reveal a debit card/MasterCard number on the phone, check who is calling and why.
- Apply the usual instructions when paying by card: dial your code away from prying eyes, put your card away after the operation, and do not read your codes out loud.
The right attitudes to adopt on the Internet
Small simple measures can also be considered regarding the use of your personal information online.
- Make sure you have a different password for each account, and that it is sufficiently complex. Prefer a sentence or an association of several words, alternating uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters (for example Nairatalktoday669$). Also, remember to change your passwords regularly to limit the risks.
- Beware of “urgent” messages asking to open an attachment (refund, bank upgrades, parcel to be picked up, etc.). The latter can transmit a virus to you!
- Read the sender’s email address before opening an email. Pay attention to addresses that, instead of ending with the name of the company (for example firstname.lastname@example.org), end with an unknown domain name unrelated to the company in question.
- Check the sites on which you shop online: the connection must be secure (you can check this via the icon representing a closed padlock before the URL of the site, which indicates that the connection is secure).
If in doubt about the security of your data, the government already issued out some platforms to report and educate yourself about digital security and the best practices to follow to protect yourself against cyber-maliciousness.
Avoid identity fraud with a strong digital identity
To go further and mitigate the risk of data theft, a digital identity can be effective: it allows you to connect to any type of online service using a unique username and password.
It is a practical tool that saves you the creation of an account for each service.
You have probably already encountered such a connection, when you are offered to use your tax number, your social security identifiers or your Google or Facebook accounts to identify yourself.
The Role of a Substantial Level Guaranteed Digital Identity
According to the NIMC regulation, the objective of a substantial level of guaranteed digital identity is to substantially reduce the risk of misuse or alteration of the identity.
When you register, proof of your identity is requested and subject to verification to determine its authenticity. During your connections, authentication is based on the combination of two of the three factors:
- proof of what you own (a smartphone, a badge, etc.);
- proof of what you know (a password, a PIN code, etc.);
- proof of who you are (voice, facial recognition, etc.).
Creating a digital identity with such two-factor authentication gives you peace of mind.
Focus on Digital Identity by NIMC
To date, NIMC Digital Identity is the first digital identification and authentication solution to be certified in Nigeria as compliant with the substantial guarantee level of the Federal Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of Nigeria.
Its authentication procedure is based on the unique combination of an identifier, an application, and a secret code, with two distinct methods of verification:
- entering your username, as a user;
- and a connection confirmation on the Digital Identity application using your secret code.
Thus, your accesses are secured with a solution that ensures that you are indeed at the origin of the connection request!
To better control your information online and in-person, vigilance is the keyword. If you are despite everything a victim of identity fraud, consider blocking your cards, gathering all the evidence at your disposal, filing a complaint without delay, and checking with your bank and other financial institutions that you are registered to check and report before being accused of fraud.