Have you ever had to endure the painful experience of being a victim of fraud or identity theft in which personal documents are stolen and the data is used fraudulently? Your financial information is very personal and must be carefully protected. In today’s “virtual” world, we are much more vulnerable than ever and must be more vigilant in safeguarding our finances. Ask yourself these questions to see how secure your information is.
Are your sensitive documents kept securely? Where are the following documents? International passport, birth certificate, title documents, investment certificates, insurance certificates, educational certificates, NYSC certificate, marriage license. Don’t leave them lying around in shoeboxes at the bottom of your wardrobe for an unscrupulous person to rifle through whilst you are out. Secure them in a sturdy fireproof filing cabinet or a small fireproof safe, or at a minimum keep them locked away, and retain scanned copies in a secure folder on your computer.
Do you have a paper shredder? Be conscious of how you dispose of financial documents that you no longer need. It is not enough to just casually discard old financial statements; they can become prime targets for thieves. With a shredder for home use that costs under N15,000 you can effectively destroy such documents rather than simply tearing them up.
Are your smartphones, computer and other devices password protected? If your password or PIN [Personal Identification Number] is compromised, this could lead to devastating losses should unscrupulous people gain access to your financial information. Do not share your passwords or PINs with anyone. If you might forget them and need to write them down, then store them securely. Change your passwords and PINS periodically and use different codes for different accounts. Be creative about your choice of passwords and PIN numbers; family birthdays and names are very easy to decipher so avoid using those.
In addition, secure your computer with a firewall and security software packages that have anti-virus and anti-spam features. If you are technologically challenged, an IT specialist or a techy friend can help you download and install this. Choose someone you can trust!
Ignore phone calls or email requests for personal information. Your bank and other legitimate companies will never request for sensitive information such as passwords and PINs by email; these are usually fraudsters attempting to defraud you. Contact your bank directly and report such incidents.
Do you use public computers for your transactions? It is generally safer to use your own computer for your financial transactions. When you are at an airport or in a business center or internet cafe, avoid using public computers for sensitive transactions as your information could be compromised. If you do use a public computer, be sure to clear your “history” before you log out otherwise other users can intercept your information. Free wireless internet “hotspots” are often not at all secure. Use secure websites for your transactions. The address will usually start with “https” and there is a key or closed padlock in the status bar.
Is your personal information out there on social media? In our world of social media with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it seems so natural to put seemingly innocent information about yourself and your family out there. Geo-tagged photos inform people exactly where you are; this could expose you and your family to crime.
Have you enrolled for the Bank Verification Number (BVN)? In February 2014, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with all Nigerian Banks, introduced the Bank Verification Number (BVN). All bank customers in Lagos must enroll and obtain their BVN, which is a unique identification number, before June 2015. A bank customer’s BVN gives them a unique identity that can be used for easy identification and verification of bank customers.
The Enrollment Process is simple. At any of the selected bank branches, you are required to submit an acceptable means of identification, and update your information by completing and submitting the BVN Enrollment Form. Your physical presence is required for data capturing such as your fingerprint, facial image etc. Thereafter, an acknowledgment slip with the transaction ID will be issued to you. Within 24 hours, the system confirms your enrollment and a unique BVN is generated. You will receive an SMS notification with your BVN. This process needs to be done only once, as your BVN will be linked to all your bank accounts in Nigeria.
According to the CBN, “The BVN solution is to ensure accountability, protect Bank customers’ account from unauthorized access, reduce exposure to fraud, check identity theft, enhance credit advancement to Bank customers, and also encourage financial inclusion.”
If you haven’t already enrolled in the BVN scheme, endeavor to do so before the deadline. The regulator has warned that any bank customer without a BVN would be deemed to have “inadequate know-your-customers (KYC)” by that date. This might make it very difficult for you to access your bank accounts.
There is no guarantee that your financial information will be completely secure even if you put all these measures in place. However, you certainly stand a better chance of limiting access to sensitive information and protecting your personal finances from fraudsters.