Rising cases of cybercrimes in SA leaving lasting impact on lives of victims

Poor authentication systems with mobile network operators, as well shortcomings at the Department of Home Affairs, are being cited as some of the contributing factors.

Picture: Pixabay

DURBAN - Mobile network operators and banks are being urged to strengthen verification systems as identity fraud and other cybercrimes continue to rise.

According to TransUnion, the country’s largest credit bureau, nearly half of all South Africans have fallen victim to identity theft or know someone who has.

Poor authentication systems as well shortcomings at the Department of Home Affairs are being cited as some of the contributing factors.

"I woke up one day and saw debit orders that I did not know. One was from Vodacom and another was from MTN."

More than three months after his identity was used to fraudulently obtain cellphone contracts, Nkanyiso Mdlalose is still trying to figure out how his personal details landed in the wrong hands, leaving him in the red.

He told Eyewitness News that as far as he’s concerned, he had always kept his documents safe or shared them responsibly.

Mdlalose has taken all the necessary steps to prove his innocence but his credit score has been adversely affected.

"My credit score just went down. Before it used to be 700-and-something I think now it's at 660."

Tech expert Arthur Goldstuck said that this was happening far too often.

"This kind of thing has been happening for many years and part of the reason is that mobile operators have not paid enough attention to the issue of identity theft and how false identity information can be used."

Goldstuck said that cellphone companies needed to improve relations with banks to counter identity fraud as more and more crime was being conducted through mobile devices.

With more people going online, identity theft remains a critical concern.

While consumers are being urged to guard important details such as ID numbers, there are also calls for government departments, banks and retailers to strengthen their authentication systems.

Four years ago 35-year-old Teniel Jacobs from Wentworth in Durban found out that she was married, except she hadn’t met or even heard of her supposed husband.

According to Home Affairs records, she has been married since 2007.

Jacobs' life has been turned upside down and despite her best efforts, her matter has still not been resolved.

She was reminded of this legal quagmire when she couldn’t secure government’s R350 unemployment grant because officials requested her marriage certificate.

The mother of two said that Home Affairs had not been of much help to clear her name.

"Every time I go there [Home Affairs offices], it’s always the same thing - [they tell me] 'No, we haven’t done it [cleared your name] yet.'"

Goldstuck said that the department needed to upscale its services and database by using technology that verified the identities of citizens in real-time.

"Once that becomes part of the system, we should be able to build into the system far more efficient prevention measures."

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