It’s all too easy for some­one to be you

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODWINES -

Re­cently, I checked into the new Hol­i­day Inn in Rivo­nia Road in Jo­han­nes­burg. The ac­com­mo­da­tion had been booked through a travel agent, with con­fir­ma­tion that all ex­tras were to be added to the bill and sub­mit­ted to the travel agent. I had a copy of the book­ing form, as did the ho­tel.

But the ho­tel wanted to see some form of iden­tity and a credit card. The credit card it did not get. I showed the clerk my driver’s li­cence, as­sum­ing she wanted to check it was me.

She took the driver’s li­cence, turned on her heels and started to walk off. Asked what she thought she was do­ing, the clerk told me she was go­ing to pho­to­copy it.

Not a chance, I told her. Bring it right back. But she said it was re­quired in terms of the Im­mi­gra­tion Act. What tripe!

Every­one wants copies of all your doc­u­ments: cell­phone com­pa­nies, which now also de­mand in­for­ma­tion in terms of Rica (see

South African Air­ways, which de­mands pho­to­copies of your ID and the front and back of your credit card; banks with their re­peated Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre Act (Fica) re­quests (be­cause their sys­tems are so use­less or their staff are too lazy to check whether they al­ready have the in­for­ma­tion); re­tail­ers if you ap­ply for credit; and even life as­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

It is no won­der that banks lost R82 mil­lion in 2005 to fraud­sters us­ing stolen or copied iden­tity doc­u­ments.

Many fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies abuse Fica to get in­for­ma­tion from you that they ac­tu­ally want for mar­ket­ing pur­poses.

It has be­come so lu­di­crous that we might as well place all our pri­vate in­for­ma­tion on a web­site and say to fraud­sters: “Come get me!”

What makes it worse is that so many com­pa­nies then seem to in­dis­crim­i­nately and un­ac­cept­ably sell your in­for­ma­tion on to oth­ers.

And then we have the re­cent and dis­grace­ful loss of client in­for­ma­tion by Zurich In­sur­ance.

So I was some­what be­mused to re­ceive a me­dia release re­cently from the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try body, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Sav­ings & In­vest­ment South Africa (Asisa), warn­ing peo­ple to hold onto their doc­u­men­ta­tion be­cause of the high lev­els of fraud.

Still, the Asisa warn­ing is apt.


Peter Dempsey, the deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive of Asisa, says not only are crim­i­nals be­com­ing more des­per­ate; they are also be­com­ing more so­phis­ti­cated.

He says life com­pa­nies reg­u­larly en­counter cases where crim­i­nals use the per­sonal in­for ma­tion of un­sus­pect­ing con­sumers to take out life poli­cies in their names with the aim of sub­mit­ting fraud­u­lent death claims later or for the pur­poses of col­lect­ing com­mis­sion.

Dempsey says al­though life com­pa­nies are con­tin­u­ously up­dat­ing their fraud-de­tec­tion meth­ods to re­main abreast of the lat­est tech­niques used by crim­i­nals, you need to be aware of the prob­lem if it is to be coun­tered.

“Con­sumers need to guard their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion as they would any other valu­able pos­ses­sion. Not only will this help life in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, but it will also pro­tect con­sumers against fi­nan­cial loss and the end­less ad­min­is­tra­tive has­sles in­volved when hav­ing to re­claim their iden­tity from crim­i­nals,” says Dempsey.

In other words, don’t let the check-in clerk at the Hol­i­day Inn, Rivo­nia Road, Jo­han­nes­burg, copy your per­sonal doc­u­ments such as your iden­tity doc­u­ments and credit cards. Rather check in at a dif­fer­ent ho­tel, as I will be do­ing in fu­ture.

Dempsey says even a pay slip or a bank state­ment can pro­vide an ex­pe­ri­enced iden­tity thief with enough in­for­ma­tion to per­pe­trate fraud in your name.


A case that made head­lines last year in­volved a Kenyan syn­di­cate that op­er­ated in South Africa. The syn­di­cate man­aged to ac­quire boxes filled with the salary slips of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees in KwaZulu-Natal and North West prov­ince. Th­ese salary slips were sold to un­scrupu­lous fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers, who used the de­tails on the salary slips, to­gether with a forged sig­na­ture, to write poli­cies for peo­ple without their knowl­edge.

Be­cause the salary slips pro­vided the fraud­sters with real bank­ing de­tails and iden­tity num­bers, the small pre­mi­ums were then de­ducted from the salaries of the gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. This prac­tice was only ex­posed when a cleaner at a school com­plained about the pre­mium be­ing de­ducted from her salary each month.

Dempsey says it is im­por­tant that you reg­u­larly check your pay slip and bank ac­count state­ments to make sure that all de­duc­tions are au­tho­rised. If you come across any sus­pi­cious de­duc­tions, im­me­di­ately no­tify your em­ployer, the life in­surer mak­ing the de­duc­tions, and your bank.

I would add that you should ques­tion any­one who wants to take copies of any of your doc­u­ments. De­mand to see the man­ager. Ask what se­cu­rity they have in place, such as en­sur­ing no du­pli­cates can be made, what se­cure stor­age fa­cil­i­ties they have in place and whether they share your doc­u­men­ta­tion with any­one else.

Only by you putting pres­sure on in­sti­tu­tions that de­mand your in­for­ma­tion will you pro­tect your­self.

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