The real-life effects of fraud will leave you drained and frustrated

Corporations also need to stand up and act by digging deeper, especially given the levels of fraud happening.

Corporations also need to stand up and act by digging deeper, especially given the levels of fraud happening.

Published May 25, 2024


By: Nicola Mawson

Registered professional accountant Cisca Kaasjager had her identity stolen and went through numerous hoops to try and have the resultant issues with her credit record resolved, battling everyone from the bank to a credit union and yet still fighting for a solution for more than three years.

Speaking at the recent Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) International Fraud Summit, Kaasjager explained that she had an issue after having applied for a credit card as, four weeks after it was approved, she still couldn’t use it. “I went back to the branch I don’t know how many times. One day, getting all gatvol, I phoned the fraud department.”

Kaasjager was also frustrated with the call centre staff, none of whom were able or, she felt, willing to resolve her complaint. “Why is it always when you need a supervisor, they're not available? It always happens. Maybe they can hear that I'm frustrated and I'm irate. They just don't want to deal with it.”

She said that, after all this back and forth, threatening to cut her card up, and checking that she can transfer money, she eventually tried to sort this issue out by herself.

Kaasjager then spoke with a credit bureau, and also found this process frustrating because she sent in a query via the online system, which she sarcastically called “fabulous” and told the audience at the summit that it took a month for them to get back to her.

After having provided detailed information in her initial contact, she was then asked – again – to provide details.

Finally, after an hour-and-a-half on the phone, Kaasjager got through to a real person and asked them to resolve the line that said her ID number was linked to a fraudulent account. This was then escalated to a supervisor, who found – on the back end – that there were two entries on her profile. One saying that she was a fraudster, and the other noting that she was a victim of fraud.

Because of that simple line saying that her name was linked to a fraudulent event, Kaasjager faced a world of trouble because there was no immediate explanation as to what the issue was on her profile. “Human nature says we believe the worst. Anyone who reads that little sentence…”

This, she says, was her experience when she told a colleague she had been flagged for fraud at a credit bureau, despite not committing it. “His eyes went like this. He said to me, what type of fraud did you commit?”

The problem, said Kaasjager, is that no one looks at the real story, regardless of whether they are a bank or an employment agency. “I will fight until Kingdom come to have my name cleared. The only thing that I have left is my name.”

Kaasjager is convinced that she isn’t alone in having this issue linked to her name. “That's why I'm talking here today because I'm standing up for what I believe in and I'm talking about what is right.”

Kaasjager called on credit bureaus to also amend how they notate information on someone’s profile so that there is more detail around the issue, as well as a reference number that people checking credit scores can use to determine what happened.

Corporations also need to stand up and act by digging deeper, especially given the levels of fraud happening, she said.

According to TransUnion, South Africa's largest credit bureau, because identity theft is a "silent" crime, it can go undetected for months, even years while victims have enormous debts run up in their name.

The bureau, which offers an identity theft solution at a cost, notes that identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world: experts believe that someone's identity is stolen somewhere in the world every two seconds. “Yet most people believe it cannot happen to them until it is too late, and their creditworthiness has been destroyed.”

Experian offers a product called Hunter, that “prevents application fraud by highlighting suspicious applications, allowing you to investigate and prevent fraud without inconveniencing genuine customers”.

Even better, SAFPS offers a digital protective registration process that is free and can be done within minutes from a device such as a laptop with a camera.