Attention: Report Any Loss of Your Personal Document Immediately

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Quick question, what do you do when you lose your Personal Identifiable Information (PII) document such as your national ID, passport or driving license?

Did you know that 2 out of 5 people who lose their PII never bother to report to the relevant authority?

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Another quick question, how many of you have had to take a picture or scan your ID, passport, credit/debit card or driving license and post it on social media, send it via a messaging application or email?

I know a considerable number of you have done it. I personally know of someone who had to scan both sides of their national ID for a certain mobile loan application app. However, have you ever stopped and asked yourself the implications of exposing yourself online? Well, here is a short story:

Fraud and Accessory to Murder

A certain lady lost her national ID and never bothered to report it. She believed that she could use her passport as a replacement. One day while at her place of work, she was surrounded by detectives from the criminal investigation department who arrested her. She was charged with fraud and accessory to murder. What had happened?

When she lost her ID, someone got a hold of it and used it to register a phone number. Unknown to her, her ID was used to withdraw proceeds of fraud sent to the new registered number. Her ID was often used during such transactions. However, that isn’t the gist of the story. Apparently, the new registered phone number had been used to make a phone call that would later be associated with a murder. During the investigations, and from the records obtained from the call logs, “her” phone number had been used to point out the location of the victim. And that is how, unknowingly, she had plunged into a serious situation.

Importance of Reporting

Had she reported to the nearest police station that she had lost her ID, she would have been issued with a police abstract. This abstract could have come in handy when proving that she wasn’t behind the fraud or murder. But, since she never reported it, she had no leverage.

Another importance of reporting a lost PII, especially a credit/debit card is that your bank will be able to block the card and no transaction will go through. You will also be issued with a new card without loss of funds to fraudsters or opportunists.

SIM Cards

Reporting a lost SIM card to your service provider is equally important. Your service provider will also be able to block it and prevent further damage. This is very important if you have not set up a PIN for your SIM card. I know many of us feel that having to key in the PIN each time your restart your phone is a hassle. Well, it may be… BUT it is very important. Without the PIN, anyone can use your SIM card. They may not be able to make monetary transactions (for those not so serious ones) but they can use it to make calls or send messages that could land you in serious trouble. So, before you do anything else, make sure that you set up a PIN for your SIM card.

SIM Card Fraud & Swapping

Some of us have lost access to our SIM cards in very suspicious circumstances. For instance, when you went to bed at night, your phone number was working fine but when you wake up, there is no network. Calling your service provider isn’t of much help either. What normally happens is that if someone got a hold of your ID card, they could use that information to trick the customer care attendant on the other end to blocking that number or transferring ownership. These cases have been rampant in Nigeria and they have started taking root in Kenya as well. See now why it is important to report any loss of your PII?

Public Sharing of Personal Identifiable Information/Documents

Lastly, no one should trick you into taking a photo or scanning your ID, passport, card or any other PII and sending them or posting them publicly. I know there may be legitimate transactions behind this but you should be very careful with whom you are sharing this document with. Unlike losing your PII, when you share photos or scanned copies online, someone can print the document, laminate it and present it as an original ID. What they will do with it afterwards, we can only leave it to our imagination.

In conclusion, your Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or document should not be taken for granted. We are living during a time where criminals are becoming even more innovative and tech savvy. Make sure you report any loss of document to the relevant authority as soon as possible. Make sure that your SIM cards are PIN protected. Do not take photos or scans of your personal documents and share them publicly. Well, you can if you conceal off the most important information. That is it for today on cyber-safety.


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Jones Baraza is the founder of Swift Intellect, a software and Cyber Security firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also the founder and project manager for IsVipi OSSN, an open source social networking software with over 1 million downloads. He is passionate about tech and security. You can follow him on Twitter @JonesBaraza