Johannesburg - More than R1 billion is lost each year in South Africa to identity fraud – with the number of cases steadily increasing.

This is according to a recent study by credit bureau Compuscan, which has analysed statistics from the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

At the end of April, 1 370 cases of identity fraud had been reported to the SAFPS, which noted that there had been a 16 percent increase between 2012 and last year.

According to Compuscan, this hike looks set to continue, with the number of incidents estimated to grow past 4 000 by the end of the year.

“According to the latest National Credit Regulator Credit Bureau Monitor, there were 20.64 million credit-active consumers in South Africa as at the end of December 2013. Each one of these is urged to pay close attention to the threat of fraudulent activity that could affect their credit records,” it said.

The organisation warned that as technology and access to information improved, fraudsters were continuously evolving their scams.

“It’s concerning to see that there is an increase in identity fraud. What worries us more is that consumers are often unaware that they have fallen victim to such a crime and this could have a negative knock-on effect in their ability to obtain credit in future,” said Compuscan’s director Frank Lenisa.

Often consumers only found out when checking their credit report while applying for a home loan, store or car finance. This could lead to such requests being denied.

According to the bureau, it was imperative that individuals check their credit report. Every South African is entitled to one free credit report annually, according to the National Credit Act 34 of 2005. Despite the amount of credit-active consumers in the country, only about 14 000 request a report from Compuscan each year.

Compuscan has launched a personal online credit report portal called My Credit Check that allows users with valid ID numbers to monitor their complete financial history.

Consumers should also examine statements, keep passwords and identity numbers secure and shred receipts and statements before discarding them. Personal information should never be given over the phone and the authenticity of websites be checked before entering such information.

Those using the system can lodge a log of dispute free if they feel they’ve been swindled.

[email protected]

The Star