Security breach at credit bureaus

Maya Fisher-French
Maya Fisher-French

Between 2015 and last year, more than 84 000 consumer profiles were compromised by a massive ID fraud syndicate. This came to light when 15 men appeared in the Nigel Regional Court on May 6 on charges of fraud, theft, forgery and contravention of the Identification Act.

What is concerning is that the consumers’ personal information possibly came from credit records obtained from a credit bureau. Furthermore, the affected consumers have not received any notification of the breach.

Colonel Lungelo Dlamini, a spokesperson for the SA Police Service, told City Press that they were aware of the sources of the data, but could not provide them as they were part of the evidence that would be submitted in court.

The National Credit Regulator (NCR) told City Press that it was conducting its own investigation “into the credit bureaus for any role that they may have played in enabling the criminal syndicate to access the consumer data. Once we complete the investigation, we will consider redress that must be given to consumers.”

City Press contacted two credit bureaus, both of which denied being part of the investigation.

In response to a written query, Compuscan compliance and risk officer Annelene Dippenaar said: “Compuscan was not involved in the matter. We have been requested to refer all queries regarding this to the NCR.”

In its written response, credit bureau TransUnion said: “The credit bureaus are aware of the alleged fraud incidents where it appears that consumer credit reports were accessed to gain information that was used in the perpetration of the alleged fraud.

"The NCR and the police are currently investigating the use of these consumer credit reports to understand how these were obtained and used in the alleged fraud.

"Accordingly, until such time as the investigation has been completed, the NCR has asked all bureaus not to comment on the matter individually, but to refer all queries to it. We can confirm, however, that TransUnion is not being investigated by the police in connection with this event.”

Manie van Schalkwyk, head of the SA Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), confirmed it was aware of the operation. It informed all credit providers and banks of the 84 000 compromised consumer profiles.

However, Van Schalkwyk said it was not possible to inform such a large number of consumers directly.

The SAFPS offers a service where a compromised consumer can register for an alert whenever anyone tries to open an account in their name, however, the SAFPS cannot do this without the consumer’s permission.

While this syndicate has been caught, the police have stated that “syndicate operatives have been identified as widespread across other provinces”.

. If you have any information about the fraud syndicate, contact Sergeant Laurence of the Provincial Investigation Unit on 079 818 3183 or call Crime Stop on 086 001 0111. The case will resume next month in the Palm Ridge Regional Court


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