Identity theft on the rise: how to safeguard yourself

Identity theft is on the increase due to it’s growing sophistication. File photo.

Identity theft is on the increase due to it’s growing sophistication. File photo.

Published Jun 27, 2024


By: Jerry Chetty

Identity theft is on the increase due to it’s growing sophistication. Fraudsters are now able to create synthetic identities by combining genuine personal information with fake or false information. Advancements in technology and increasing data breaches have also played a role in the creation of synthetic identities.

At Santam, we have seen the impact of identity theft being used in scams coming through in our investigation of fraud cases and therefore make it our priority to protect the personal information of all our stakeholders. Fraudsters are early adopters of technology and are effectively using tech as a tool to commit various forms of fraud scams. Case in point was an incident in which a staff member in finance at a multinational company was deceived into paying over $25 million to fraudsters due to a deep fake of the CFO. Identity theft cases unfortunately takes time to detect and at this stage the victim has already suffered damage and it becomes a lengthy process for the victim to rectify the situation. This incident underscores the urgency to stay informed and be vigilant.

Personal information such as your ID number, bank account details, contact numbers, address details, retail account details, are the primary catalyst for every fraud scam and remains the most prized commodity for fraudsters. In the digital world that we live in, where information is freely shared in public platforms, it is important to take caution not to overshare.

Personal information has become more accessible via the dark web due to the increasing number of data breaches in recent times. Since some of this personal information has limited use for fraudsters, they are always looking for opportunities to enhance and enrich these data sets to enable them to successfully perpetrate their fraud scams which ranges from vehicle financing fraud, investment scams, opening false retail accounts and so forth.

A method commonly used by fraudsters to trick victims into disclosing personal information is called social engineering. It is technique based on psychological manipulation and deceit into getting the victim to reveal confidential personal information.

The insurance industry in particular, is consistently tracking emerging risks. As an industry we recently noticed a trend where fraudsters are targeting insurance companies using social engineering to obtain policyholder information. The fraudster poses as a client or broker to acquire personal information. We have identified persons of interest and we are working with law enforcement to apprehend these individuals.

Here are precautions you can take to protect your personal information:

Always verify and authenticate any request for information, no matter how genuine it seems at first glance. This may mean that you have to call the insurance company or your broker directly to verify the request. Remember the psychological manipulation effect – fraudsters make you feel important and respected to gain your trust.

  • Never share identifiable information, policy numbers, claims number with strangers.
  • Take extra caution when storing or disposing of insurance documents.

Be cautious when clicking on links

If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised – you can do a protective victim registration on Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) – this is a free service. Additionally, you can obtain a free credit report from TransUnion to ensure your credit transactions are correct. In this era of escalating identity theft, it is crucial to stay vigilant and protect your personal information. With the right precautions, we can safeguard our identities.

* Chetty is the head of Business Integrity at Santam.