Malaysians are becoming more and more vulnerable to identity theft as average income increases and customers make more online purchases and transactions.
Moreover, only one in about four consumers check their credit reports regularly, a good practice to prevent identity theft, according to a maiden consumer survey conducted by RAM Credit Information (RAMCI).
For the average person, checking their credit reports at least once a year is the least they should do.
Identity thieves can apply for loans or credit using the victim’s identity, which will not show up on any bill until the loan is approved, paid out to the thief, and the repayment bill is sent to the victim.
The survey found that 14% of respondents have experienced identity theft, while 26% knew someone who had been a victim of the crime.
It is important for consumers to check their credit reports regularly to identify illegal activity, according to Dawn Lai (pictured), CEO of RAMCI. Early detection is the key to minimising the damages fraudulent activities can have on their credit profile.
A credit report is a record of one’s borrowing history and repayment behavior, which includes a record of one’s credit cards, loans or other credit facilities applied for and even involvement in litigation cases.
“There are several steps one can take to keep an eye on their credit transactions and ensure there is no identity theft. Checking your credit card bill for suspicious transactions is a good practice,” said Lai, as an advice to consumers.
According to the survey, while over 70% of respondents admitted to having some knowledge of credit reports, only a small 28% of respondents make the effort to check their own.
Of the small group who check their own credit reports, 30% did so when their legitimate credit applications were rejected, while 13% did it out of suspicion of identity theft.
“By then, it may already be too late to prevent the fraudulent transaction,” said Lai. The process to resolve fraudulent transactions can take up to months if not years, which may delay victims from making possible investments or milestone purchases such as buying a home.
In cases where there are inaccuracies or disputes regarding information found in the credit report, consumers should contact the Credit Reporting Agency (CRA), who are duty bound by the Credit Reporting Agency Act set in 2010, to verify and rectify the information free of charge.
“Our survey shows that more than half of respondents are unaware of the CRA’s responsibility to provide accurate and updated information to its subscribers,” said Lai.
This survey is the first step RAMCI is taking to ramp up educational efforts to help consumers take control of their credit information and protect themselves against identity theft.
Lai stressed again: “Don’t wait till you notice suspicious activity in your credit profiles. Take the initiative to keep up to date and monitor your credit report to avoid identity theft.”