Identity Fraud Awareness
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ― Dr. Seuss. This is one of my favourite quotes, but can there actually be two of you?
I recently had a client who was excitedly finalising the arrangements for her upcoming wedding. We drafted her antenuptial contract and a day before she was scheduled to sign, we received a call from her marriage officer… She was a victim of identity fraud and was actually listed as married with the Department of Home Affairs. In South Africa, you are not legally allowed to have more than one spouse and therefore this was devastating for her and disruptive to her upcoming nuptials. Not only had she never met her “husband”, but she also had no way of even contacting him.
The South African Fraud Prevention Services – www.safps.org.za is a non-profit organisation created to assist victims of identity fraud. Unlike the above example, where identity fraud impacted the client’s marital status, the SAFPS deals with the financial implications of identity fraud. If your identity document is stolen or lost, you need to report it by either calling 011 867 2234 or by sending an email to email@example.com. The SAFPS will then advise the members on their database (this includes all major financial institutions in South Africa) that your identity document has been compromised and that they should take extra steps to confirm your identity. This will save you from unwanted credit cards and personal loans that a fraudster applies for in your name. If you would like to read more tips to remember and traps to avoid, have a look at the following link: https://www.safps.org.za/Home/FraudPrevention_TipsAndTraps.
If your identity has been stolen, and credit is taken out in your name, then you can further raise a dispute with the credit ombudsmen – www.creditombud.org.za
The last form of identity fraud I have encountered with my clients is that of payroll fraud. A person copies an unsuspecting victim’s identity document to gain employment. This is usually the case when the person cannot obtain employment on their own due to not being a citizen of South Africa, or due to them having a criminal record that would make employment in the field impossible. This could have a disastrous impact on the victim, as they might be required to pay a high tax fee on income they never earned.
You can also do the following to ensure that you are not a victim of identity fraud
Perform regular credit checks. This will enable you to confirm that all registered credit against your name is legitimate. Transunion (www.transunion.co.za) offers this service free of charge to consumers.
Annually keep track of your tax returns and ensure that only one tax return has been filed in your name and that your employer is your only listed employer. The key to preventing being a victim to identity fraud is to look out for any suspicious activity and ensure anything that looks strange is reported without delay.
For more information: Tania Abbotts / TAbbotts@hammondpole.co.za