OBTAINING fraudulent financial statements that prove you are financially sound is easy in the City of Gold. If you are determined and know what you are doing, you would probably get away with goods worth thousands of rands.
Sowetan managed to buy forged payslips and bank statements from two Internet cafés - Copy & Print and Rocky Print, both in Rockey Street, Yeoville - for R450 a set.
Generally, it costs potential conmen about R150 for a payslip and R300 for a bank statement.
A foreigner can buy asylum papers for a mere R150.
For a bit more, you can also score a fake proof of residence - that's utility bills used to prove your address.
It will cost another R200 to get a certified copy of an ID that the fraudsters get stamped through a contact at Yeoville police station.
Sowetan took a payslip and a bank statement to Absa and FNB branch managers to have a look at them.
According to a manager at one of the two banks, the payslip looked genuine at face value.
She said the only way to verify the documents was to call the company, in this case Stats South Africa, "to verify employment, your employment number and salary".
But she said this was usually done when they were suspicious of documents used for a credit application.
But fraudsters can easily sidestep this hurdle.
They provide a credit reference for R200 and put one of their companies' contact details on the payslip, and when the bank or retail store calls for a reference the person who answers will vouch for the customer.
An FNB manager was shocked at how close the fakes resembled the real documents.
"We also get really genuine-looking retail store statements.
"To pick it up you would have to go the extra mile and call the companies," she said.
A fake ID seals the deal.
According to Banking Ombudsman Advocate Clive Pillay, this is where corrupt Home Affairs officials come in. "We find it extremely difficult to deal with this sort of thing.
"There seems to be a very professional syndicate that produces IDs with photographs but with someone else's ID numbers.
"This makes it very difficult for banks," said Pillay.
Standard Bank spokesperson Erik Larsen said: "The banks are working closely with Home Affairs to find a solution to the problem by using a thumbprint recognition technique."
But neither the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) nor the police have detailed statistics on ID theft incidents.
Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay said: "Identity theft is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence. From well known scams such as the deposit and refund scam, through to newer methods which can use a combination of the Internet and printed documents to steal personal information such as ID numbers, company details, bank account numbers, passwords and more, criminals, it seems, are still getting their own way.
"After getting all this information, they then use it to incur debt or even commit crime in the name of the consumer."
l Buying the fake documents almost turned out to be a mission impossible.
We were initially under the impression that if you had money the deal would be swift. But the Internet cafè owner did not trust me and my photographer colleague.
So we had to ask an acquaintance of his to buy the documents for use.
It took about one and half hours to seal the deal.
I sat in the Internet cafè pretending to surf the net while the guy "processed" my documents to ensure that they matched my ID.