Big increase in identity fraud cases in South Africa

 ·19 Sep 2019

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has released new statistics showing a sharp increase in identity fraud.

According to Manie van Schalkwyk, executive director of the SAFPS, fraudsters who are using fabricated identification documents (ID’s) and names has decreased by 48% when compared with 2018.

However, the impersonation by fraudsters using real ID’s and names has increased by 99% on 2018 figures, he said.

He added that the level of fraudsters using a combination of forged documents – which includes falsified employment details, forged payslips and false qualifications – has also seen a sharp increase.

2018 figures saw an increase of 47% on 2017 figures while there was an increase of 33% in 2019 on 2018’s figures.

Red flags 

While it is easy to fall victim to fraud, there are some red flags that victims can look out for in certain situations which are a dead give away to possible illegal activity, said van Schalkwyk.

He cited a recent case where a customer of a cellular service provider was waiting for a refund of R1,500 from her provider. The provider was not getting back to her in time, so she expressed her frustrations on Facebook.

“Within hours of her post, a women posing as an employee of the cellular provider contacted the women and offered to help her if she provided the women with her ID number, payslip, and bank statement,” said van Schalkwyk.

The women, desperate to get her refund obliged and gave the information to the lady posing as the employee who urged the women not to speak to anyone else at the provider so that the situation does not become complicated.”

A few days later, the disgruntled customer find that R15,000 has been deposited into her account as opposed to R1,500.

She received a call from the women posing as the cellular provider employee who asked the lady to refund her with the balance of the funds (R15 000 minus R1 500). This was repeated twice over the following weeks.

“It turns out that, furnished with the information that the customer gave her, the women posing as the employee of the cellular provider had opened numerous accounts under the disgruntled customer’s name,” said van Schalkwyk.

“When one looks at the above case study, one can empathise with the frustration that the customer felt as customer service levels in South Africa are not up to global standards. However, there are a few red flags that have been raised,” said Van Schalkwyk.

“The cellular provider should have had all the customers details on hand and not have to ask for it to be resubmitted to them. If someone is asking for it, it is a serious red flag.

“All employees of a major company work off a centralised database and any call centre agent can keep you updated with an ongoing query. If someone tells you not to speak to anyone else at the company, again, it is a serious red flag.”

Read: These 3 South Africans were hit by banking fraud – here’s what happened

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