theft is an unfortunate reality in the digital age we live in. It is no longer
simply about tearing up confidential documents before you throw them in the
bin. Criminals can now access your private details online and “steal” your
identity within minutes, using this information to fraudulently obtain credit
and run up bills in your name.
director of the South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), and former
credit ombudsman, Manie van Schalkwyk, says there is currently a total database
of 103?000 records at his office, of which 62 000 are confirmed cases of fraud.
“This has grown 8.3% year-on-year and the number of consumers who have
registered with us to protect their identity documents grew 11% in the last
year to 21 000,” he says.
has a membership base that includes banks, retailers, cellphone companies,
microlenders, insurers, and medical aid schemes – who all share information
around confirmed fraud cases. The SAFPS is also able to register details of
anyone who has lost their identity document or believe their personal details
have been compromised. These details are then added to a shared database, which
means that if anyone tries to open a new credit account with those details, the
creditor immediately sees a red flag or a cautionary notice.
“In terms of
financial impact, the four large banks alone (Standard Bank, FNB, Absa and
Nedbank) have saved R1.7bn (up 18.2% from the previous year) as a result of
declining applications that were flagged as fraudulent,” he says. Van Schalkwyk
says the ROI on this is 574 times, meaning that for every R1 the banks spend,
they save R574 due to industry efforts to fight fraud.
In terms of
legislation, the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill is currently in its second
draft and may be passed into legislation later this year.
The objectives of the bill include:
protection of the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data
and systems. The bill makes unlawful access, interception of protected data,
malware-related offences, interference with data and computer systems and
password-related offences all legal offences.
criminalisation of cyber-facilitated offences including fraud, forgery,
uttering and extortion, which were adapted specifically for the cyber
before the bill comes into legislation, you can take the following steps to
ensure that your identity and personal details are protected:
- Shred all
documents that contain your personal information and don’t throw away any documents
that could be used to impersonate you.
- Make sure
all your accounts have strong passwords that are not easy to guess. Passwords
should consist of a combination of upper case letters, lower case letters,
symbols and numbers. Don’t use the same password for all your different
respond to emails or SMSs that request your personal details, whether it is via
a reply or by clicking on a link. You should rather contact the service
provider directly to verify your information if required.
- Be selective
about the information you share on social media sites and check that your
privacy settings are always in place.
- Only carry
your identity document and passport when absolutely necessary and keep these
documents safely locked away the rest of the time.
- Don’t fall
for scams that claim you have won money or a prize, particularly if you don’t
remember entering any competitions.
check your credit profile to ensure that it is up to date and that your details
have not been fraudulently used. You are entitled to one free credit report
each year. If there is a negative listing on your credit profile and it is not
an account you opened, you need to complain to the credit bureau so that it can
Moodley has been a personal finance journalist for
12 years. You can find more of her articles on www.moneyissues.co.za.
Important contact details
If you have
been a victim of fraud or your personal details have been compromised,
you can contact the SA Fraud Prevention Service for assistance:
086 010 1248
your full name and the keywords “protect ID” to 43366.
This is article originally appeared in the 2
March edition of finweek. Buy
and download the magazine here.