Theft of personal information rife

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Identity theft has become an underlying feeder for major commercial crimes globally, highlighting the need for education of consumers about preventative measures, says a senior banking risk executive.

"Identity theft is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence," says SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) chief executive Kalyani Pillay.

She says this ranges 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 use this information to incur debt or even commit crime in the name of the unsuspecting consumer," she says.

Pillay says the rise of the Internet as a valuable business tool has also resulted in its misuse by criminals.

"Identity and information theft is certainly a possibility when using the Internet. Scammers use a variety of tactics, such as 'spoof' [fake] websites which fool you into entering your bank login details, or 'phishing' (e-mails which purport to come from your bank), requesting sensitive information."

Pillay says law enforcement agencies are adopting programmes to identify and bring to justice criminal syndicates that specialise in identity theft.

"Police have recently disrupted major syndicates manufacturing IDs and passports fraudulently.