STAY CLEAR: Senior director of Transunion Africa Garnet Jensen says identity theft is rife in South Africa, but a new system protects personal data. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency/ANA

Half of South African consumers have either been a victim of identity theft or know someone who has, according to a recent survey commissioned by TransUnion.
It’s the increased prevalence of this crime that has led to the launch of True Identity, a comprehensive ID theft solution. It provides consumers with an extensive set of features and tools to protect themselves against identity thieves and to help them restore their good name and recover from losses if they have already fallen victim.

The senior director of Trans Union Africa, Garnet Jensen, said identity theft is rife in South Africa.

The most common form is someone using the identity of another person to get access to products and services he or she wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.

“They then open accounts in that person’s name, get the value from it and the victim is left to live with the consequences.

“Typically, an identity thief will gain access to someone’s personal information and documents through various means,” he said.

“They create a persona and open credit applications and the victim only finds out a couple of months down the line.”

Jensen said that very often it was retail accounts, mobile phone contracts and bank accounts, where the fraudster impersonates a person and clears out their account.

Fraudsters also intercept employment application or credit applications and use those documents to steal identities.

“The third way is from an online perspective. Data breaches have been in the news quite often, where, for example, a hacker hacks someone’s e-mail account, or they get information from large corporate breaches, when a lot of consumer data goes onto the dark web.

“The last category is what we broadly term phishing, where a fraudster poses as a company representative and dupes a victim into handing over their personal details, bank details and access codes.”

With all people’s personal information online, on social media, it’s very easy for hackers to start har- vesting information.

“If they gain access to your social media profile, they can find out a lot more about you, get an address and stuff like that. From there, they build up a profile until they have enough information to apply for credit and commit other forms of identity theft.”

Jensen said his research had shown identity theft was not limited to the top end of the market. The middle-class were also targets.

Current detection mechanisms in South Africa help deal with identity theft, but not to detect it early on, he added.

“We offer TrueIdentity in other geographies and we leveraged our global partnerships to bring True Identity to South Africa... monitoring identity theft, helping you restore your good name, and then recovering any financial losses that you may have incurred. As a baseline, we give customers access to their full credit data. They get unlimited access to their credit report and score,” he said.

Consumers can check their credit report if anything unusual is going on, allowing them to see if it’s moved significantly. They also get credit alerts, which tell them if there’s any major change in their credit reports such as a new account or an enquiry, which happens when someone does a credit application using your identity and the credit provider queries the bureau. “Those are the early signs of identity theft,” said Jensen.

The system trolls the internet for TrueIdentity users’ personal details daily. It looks for sensitive personal information like identity document numbers, addresses and medical aid details.

“If we find something like that, we send an e-mail or SMS alert. Now what’s cool is that we don’t troll parts of the internet that you and I know.

“We look at what we call the deep and the dark web. These are parts of the internet not typically indexed by search engines such as Google. The dark web is the anonymous net- works. They can only be accessed with specific tools and browsers. And that’s where the fraudsters typically go to find information,” he said.

The ID theft solution is available through the TransUnion call centre (0861-482-482) or on their website: www.transunion.co.za.

The Sunday Independent