As South Africans waved goodbye to 2020, they looked forward to 2021 with a lot of anticipation that the year would not be filled with the same challenges that had to be dealt with over the previous 12 months. Unfortunately, this has not materialised. The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) points out that the fraud risk landscape is growing by the day.
“We are really reaching a critical point when it comes to the economy and the extreme measures that criminals will use to perpetrate fraud,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, CEO SAFPS. “The 2020 statistics that were collected by the SAFPS indicate that there are significant increases in key areas and that there is a long road ahead to address this challenge.”
He added that fraud in the Eastern Cape increased by 161%. Fraud in Gauteng increased by 120%. “There were increases in every province with the exception of Limpopo,” says Van Schalkwyk.
A massive playing field
The SAFPS reports that an area which saw a major increase was fraud listings which increased by 62%. In addition, victim listings up by 54%.
“2020 was a year of major disruption as many employees were told that they had to work from home. The problem with this is that employees are now conducting their work, and in some cases sending sensitive information, across servers that do not have the same level of security as the servers at their normal place of business. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driven by data and cyber criminals are conducting targeted attacks on servers to steal valuable data and use it to commit fraud. We saw this in the Experian and Absa data breaches last year. The fact that there is a significant increase in victim listings could be because of an increase in data breaches,” says Van Schalkwyk.
Impersonations are up
Perhaps the most concerning statistic coming out of the recent SAFPS report is that impersonation fraud has increased by 337%.
“This is extremely concerning. Impersonation fraud is the act of a criminal impersonating another person by stealing their identity and then opening accounts in their name. The fraudster has details of the victim and trying to take over account. The credit provider will ask the questions normally asked of the account holder. Because of data breaches, this information is available to the fraudster, making it easier to take over the account. They then take over the account and leave the victim with massive amounts of debt that they never took out in the first place,” says Van Schalkwyk, who adds that technology has also improved significantly, and it is currently very easy to make a fake application look very legitimate.
It is not all bad news though. The SAFPS reports that industry savings by companies that make use of the SAFPS database increased by 86% to R4.4 Billion. Van Schalkwyk urges companies who are not yet members of the SAFPS to visit www.safps.org.za to find out more about how they can become a member and get the benefit of a shared fraud database.
Protective Registration – Free Service
One of the most important services, and the core of SAFPS’ service offering, is Protective Registration, a free service protecting individuals against identity fraud. Consumers apply for this service and the SAFPS alerts its members to take additional care when dealing with that individual’s details.
Protective Registration provides an added layer of protection and peace of mind regardless of whether the identity of the applicant has been compromised or not.
“If a member of the public wants to become proactive in the fight against fraud, the SAFPS is there to serve them. Visit our website on www.safps.org.za. Click on the fraud prevention tab and protect yourself against identity theft with Protective Registration. For best results, use your smart phone to go to our website. Once you have uploaded key pieces of information, you will add another layer of protection against potential ID fraud,” says Van Schalkwyk.
Victim Fraud Registration
Through Fraud Victim Registration, the SAFPS will assist applicants in preventing fraud that is a result of identity theft and impersonation.
This will protect applicants from associated financial implications. The SAFPS will issue applicants with a Victim of Impersonation Letter which they can share with future credit providers to assist in any verification processes.
Important steps to take
The challenges that were faced in 2020 will not disappear overnight. The risk landscape will most likely grow a little bit more before active steps can be put in place to address them as South Africa comes to terms with the continued disruption that the current Covid-19 pandemic is having on the country and the new way of doing business that the country needs to adjust to.
“Where does this leave companies and the consumer? We need to be proactive when it comes to managing our identities and the opportunities that are presented to fraudsters. It is imperative that consumers, and companies, protect themselves against fraud. More and more we see the use of biometric data as the solution for the future,” says Van Schalkwyk.
Consumers are urged to visit the SAFPS website on www.safps.org.za, and click on protect your identity. It is recommended that a smart phone is used in this process and that the applicant has a copy of their ID with them. Alternatively, applicants can follow the manual process explained on the website.