Smart ID department of home affairs

South African smart ID card / (Photo: Twitter / Home )

Identity fraud and theft on the rise in South Africa compared to 2018

Identity fraud is a serious concern for South African citizens.

Smart ID department of home affairs

South African smart ID card / (Photo: Twitter / Home )

On 19 September 2019, the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service’s (SAFPS) statistics revealed a rise in identity fraud. Fraudsters using real Identity Documents (ID) and names for impersonations have increased by 99% in relation to 2018.

Speaking to Business Tech, Manie van Schalkwyk, the executive director of the SAFPS, said fraudsters who used fabricated ID’s and names had decreased by 48% when compared to 2018. There’s been an increase of 47% for 2018’s; 2017 figures and a rise of 33% in 2019 on 2018’s figures.

An example of how identity theft can happen

Identity fraud can happen to anyone at anytime but there are some red flags that you can look for to avoid this fate. Van Schalkwyk noted a recent case where a cellular service customer waited for a refund of R1 500 from the provider.

The provider was taking long to deal with the matter, leading the customer to express her frustrations on Facebook. Van Schalkwyk shared how a woman posing as an employee of the cellular provider reached out to “help” the customer.

The fraudster asked the complainant for her “ID number, payslip, and bank statement.” The customer obliged even after the fraudster asked her “not to speak to anyone else at the provider so that the situation does not become complicated.”

A few days later, R15 000 was deposited into the customer’s account instead of the R1 500. The identity thief then called the customer and asked her to refund the difference minus the money owed to her.

The request was repeated twice over the following weeks. The disgruntled customer later learned that the woman pretending to work for the service provider had opened a number of accounts by fraudulently using her name.

The SAFPS is fighting against the scourge

The SAFPS works to track fraud trends with the aim of dismantling them. The team works with large banks, retail groups, and insurance companies to reach their goals.

The organisation also offers free protection to members of the public who have become victims of identity fraud. SAFPS takes the victim’s ID number and files it on their database under the category “Victims of Impersonation” to protect them against further attempts at fraud.

In some cases, the details of the impersonator could also be uploaded on to the database. Compuscan’s director, Frank Lenisa urged consumers to “pay close attention to the threat of fraudulent activity.”

Compuscan launched a personal online credit report portal called My Credit Check to allow users with valid ID numbers to monitor their complete financial history.

How you can protect yourself from becoming a victim

According to the SAFPS, consumers can protect themselves from fraudsters by:

  • Shredding all documents that contain your personal information
  • Be attentive at ATMs and protect your pin number
  • Use strong passwords for all your accounts to prevent easy deciphering
  • Don’t respond to e-mails or SMSes that ask for your personal and banking information
  • Offer to call back people who call from unknown numbers to requests personal information. Calling back will allow you to verify if the company is legit
  • Be wary of the information you share on social media sites and make use of privacy settings
  • ID’s and passports should only be carried when absolutely necessary
  • Avoid responding to messages by scammers that claim you’ve won a prize, or inherited money