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Identity Theft Scams
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Identity Theft Scams

The purpose of this alert is to warn consumers about identity theft and provide them with tips about:

  • protecting themselves against identity theft; and
  • what to do if their identity has been stolen.



Are you a victim of identity theft?

In terms of the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act, No. 25 of 2002, it is a criminal offence to intentionally access or intercept any data without authority or permission to do so.

Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. It is your everyday habits that could lead to identity theft. Little things that consumers do not think about can create opportunities for an identity thief to grab enough information to use your identity for fraudulent purposes, damaging your credit record or, worse, your whole life.

Finding out that your identity has been stolen can be devastating, and most consumers find out the hard way. Imagine applying for credit, only to be turned down because your credit record - which you thought was immaculate - is in a shambles.


How identity theft happens

At the core, identity theft and credit card fraud are both results of the same action; both start when a criminal gains access to your personal information. That information may include your full names, date of birth, address and telephone number, and even the names of your family members.

Below is a quick list of five common ways in which identity thieves gain access to your personal information and steal your identity.

  1. Dumpster diving: Criminals rummage through trash looking for bills or other papers that contain your personal information.
  2. Skimming: Your credit or debit card number is stolen through the use of a special storage device while your card is being processed for payment at a store. For example, some merchants print credit card numbers on their receipts; this happens if the merchant you are shopping with uses one of the old carbon slip credit card machines to process credit card transactions, effectively creating a copy of all your credit card details. Even new-generation cash registers print information such as the last four digits of your credit card number and its expiry date on the receipt. Or you may give your credit card to an assistant or cashier to pay for something, and that person swipes it twice - once for authorisation, and once to collect the information encoded on the card. This information can be extremely valuable to identity thieves, as it is more than enough for them to make purchases telephonically or electronically.
  3. Phishing: Criminals pretend to be from some or other legitimate financial institution or company and send spam or pop-up messages requesting you to provide them with your personal information. Most criminals use Trojan, a crimeware computer package used by cyber criminals to obtain unauthorised access to a victim's personal information and steal it as part of an attack.
  4. Changing of address: A criminal diverts your billing statements to another location by completing a change-of-address form.
  5. Mail theft: Bank and credit card statements, offers of pre-approved credit cards and the like may be stolen from your mail.


You can minimise your risk by following these eight tips:

  1. Never carry more credit cards than you need, and cancel credit card accounts you do not use.
  2. Do not disclose your identity number unless it is absolutely necessary, i.e. for banking or any other reasons.
  3. Do not throw away bills or any documents containing account or other personal details. Rather burn your documents or use a shredder.
  4. Do not leave receipts behind when you buy something. Cross-check your credit card bills against the receipts, as cashiers may scam customers by debiting their credit or debit cards twice and withdrawing the money from their cash drawers.
  5. Keep a tight hold on your purse or wallet - pick-pockets and purse-snatchers are still alive and well. At parties, in restaurants or while shopping, know where your purse or wallet is at all times and be well aware of your surroundings.
  6. When travelling, suspend newspaper and mail deliveries, or ask a trusted neighbour or friend to gather these items for you. Newspapers piling up outside your house are a dead give-away to thieves that you may be away. Mail left unattended in an unsecured mailbox provides a ripe opportunity for theft.
  7. Consumers are advised to use computers and Internet Cafe's that are safe and reliable in order to avoid being scammed.
  8. Familiarise yourself with online scams so that you do not become the next victim. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is a scam.


If you believe you have been impersonated or if your identity has been stolen, you may contact the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

  • The SAFPS is a unique South African-bred service which is committed to combating fraud in society by protecting consumers against impersonation and identity theft. The SAFPS provides shared fraud data services to all South Africa's major banks as well as many retailers, asset finance organisations and micro-lenders.
  • If you happen to realise that your personal data has been stolen, you firstly have to report the case to the Police and obtain a case number. Once you have a case number, you can register your identity or passport number with the SAFPS. The SAFPS will then circulate your details to all major banks and retailers to try and stop the criminal usage of your identity.
  • You are also advised to request your credit profile from the credit bureaus and organisations listed below to double-check whether any other fraudulent transactions have been conducted using your identity.


Contact details of credit bureaus and organisations

  • TransUnion:

0861482 482

  • Experian:

086 110 5665

  • Compuscan:

086 151 4131


Protective registration service

The SAFPS offers a free protective registration facility to members of the public. Anyone whose identity book or other personal documents have been lost or stolen or who has been impersonated by another person is encouraged to register this information with the SAFPS. This can be done on the Internet through the SAFPS website by clicking on the 'Lost or stolen ID or passport' field on the right-hand side of the screen and capturing your information there.


Should you require any additional information on or clarification of identity theft, you can contact the dti Customer Contact Centre at 0861 843 384 or the SAFPS, as indicated below:


SAFPS Help-Line: 0860 101 248

Registration form (fax on demand): 082 239 2828

Tel.: +27(11) 869 6460

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Or write to the dti at:

the dti
Consumer and Corporate Regulation Division
Private Bag X84


Other services
The Education and Compliance Directorate issues this information as part of an education service to consumers. The Directorate also offers the following services:

  • Advisory opinions and clarifications;
  • Presentations; and
  • Information material.  


Issued by: The Education and Compliance Directorate

(sourced from http://www.thedti.gov.za)

Copyright © 2018 Ombudsmen. All Rights Reserved.

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