Identity fraud growing in SA; will get worse

2008-07-03 00:00

Identity fraud has nearly doubled over the past year and is now approaching the R1 billion mark. What is even more disturbing is that this crime, which is almost impossible to prosecute, is likely to get worse, says Pat Cunningham, executive director of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

Figures released this week indicate a massive increase in the values of identity fraud and related crimes in the 12 months between June 2007 and July 2008.

In 2006/07, the SAFPS recorded a total of 10 423 fraud cases worth R486 million. This year, even though only 11 086 cases were filed, the value jumped to R878,5 million.

"This is extremely worrying. Although the number of filings has marginally increased, it is the value of attempted frauds that clearly indicate that criminals and fraud syndicates are targeting higher priced goods, such as cars, white goods, mortgage loans and the like," Cunningham said.

He said there was a marked increase in the number of reports made by victims of "impersonation".

Over the past 12 months, 1 010 people have suffered the trauma of having to claim back their identities and disown crimes committed in their names, a process that Cunningham says is both money- and time-consuming.

He said one of the more disturbing recent trends is known as the Advance Fee Fraud scam. Criminals advertise anything from holiday homes to overseas employment to cellphones — and even dogs — on the Internet, luring gullible people into paying them upfront, only for them to find that what they purchased does not exist.

He warned people not to give personal details to anybody they don’t know or trust, especially over the Internet.

Cunningham also advised people to get regular copies of their credit profiles from credit bureaus and to immediately report the theft or loss of identity documents to the SAFPS.

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