ID theft can mess up your life forever

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
Mbongiseni Sithole from Dlamini in Soweto.
Mbongiseni Sithole from Dlamini in Soweto.

Identity theft can ruin anybody's life, and at no stage should you let your guard down when it comes to protecting your personal info.

This is shown in the case of Mbongiseni Sithole, 57, of Dlamini in Soweto. His case dates back to 1994 when he was told he could not vote because he had already registered to vote in Limpopo.

The qualified risk surveyor said before he discovered the identity theft he could not secure a job as his applications were always turned down.

He decided to start a small business to earn a leaving, but when he tried to open a business account at FNB he discovered he had loans and a house which he knew nothing about. Even at the South African Revenue Service they had captured the fraudster's details, who stayed in Bela-Bela, Limpopo.

"I'm nearing the pensionable age and I worry a lot because I might not qualify for a state grant," Sithole said.

Though the fraudster was eventually traced, found guilty of fraud and sentenced to three months in prison or R3000 fine in February 2016, Sithole's life remains a mess.

Consumer Line has seen an affidavit in which Mahlonyana Mbanganyana, a Mozambican national, confirms that he fraudulently used Sithole's ID book.

It further reads that he replaced Sithole's photo with his in the ID and started committing his fraudulent activities.

Mbanganyana was employed at Freight Services as a fork lifter and contributed his pension fund in Sithole's name.

Media manager at the department of home affairs David Hlabane said this was purely a criminal offence.

He, however, said Sithole's ID number was not marked on the national population register, and therefore he will not be affected in any negative way in the future.

Garnet Jensen, a director at TransUnion, said ID theft was a year-round problem and that the holiday season was a prime time for criminals looking to steal credit cards details driver's licences.

"The holidays present a wealth of opportunity for identity thieves," said Jensen.

He said shoppers were rushed and doing more transactions than usual, while stores were crowded, making it easy to become less guarded about exposing your personal information - both in high-tech ways like phishing scams and in traditional ones such as a stolen wallet.

According to last year's survey conducted by TransUnion, 75% of adults are worried about the possibility of identity theft.

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