Consumers urged to be cautious with personal information
Gopolang Khobo, 33, of Braamfischerville in Soweto lost his ID last year.
Last month he was shocked when he received a letter of demand from the lawyers of a leading chain store.
The letter demanded that he pay R2354 by July 28 or else they would take legal action against him.
Khobo, who had never opened a clothing account at Edgars, took the threat seriously though.
He approached Sowetan for help. When we contacted Edgars and explained his situation, Ane Vinbergen, store manager at Edgars Southgate, offered to help Khobo.
Vinbergen said Khobo should bring his ID and an affidavit stating that he never opened an account with them.
She said they would refer the matter to their fraud department to be investigated.
"If he submits all the required documents the debt will be cancelled after a week," said Vinbergen.
Khobo said he was surprised to get a letter from the store's attorneys saying he owed money for an account he never opened.
He said his ID was also fraudulently used to open an account at First National Bank Northgate branch.
FNB spokesman Stephen Higgins confirmed that the account was opened using Khobo's ID.
Higgins said the account was closed on March 28 after they discovered that it was opened fraudulently.
"The legitimate customer didn't lose his money," said Higgins.
ID theft is an ongoing problem in South Africa and internationally, said Gilbert Swats from South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric).
Swats said there is an electronic system in place to monitor the accounts of the clients. "Clients should report ID theft immediately to police and to their banks. Sabric urges consumers to be more vigilant about disclosing personal and banking details even to legitimate sources."
Sabric also warned customers who transact via the Internet that they should be extremely cautious about which sites they divulge personal information to.
"I don't know where and who else is using my ID to open accounts," said a worried Khobo.