Good credit record? Beware of impersonators using your details to commit fraud

‘Consumers should be careful that fraudsters don’t get access to their identities and use these fraudulently to access credit in their names,’ warns Credit Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk.

The office of the Credit Ombud has dealt with numerous matters of fraudulent listings where consumers’ identities were used illegally to run up huge accounts.  In a recent matter a consumer was saved over a million rand after someone had used their details to take out a home loan.

Consumers with good credit records are often very attractive to fraudsters as they are able to use their details to open accounts and run up debt into thousands of rands before being caught out.  “People committing fraud have caught on to the fact that consumers with good credit records are good targets as they will be granted credit in most occasions,’ adds van Schalkwyk.

According to the South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS) a total of 3 018 individuals were listed as victims of impersonation for 2011.  The potential losses associated with these listings amount to R 10.7 million.  The past three years have seen the number of identity fraud victims increase by a whopping 185%.

‘These statistics only refer to those individuals who have actually gone and reported their cases to the SAFPS. You can imagine what the actual number calculates to if all affected people went and reported their cases,’ adds van Schalkwyk. ‘Our office has also seen a rise in the number of fraudulent listings being reported by consumers,’ he continues.

Fraudsters have a number of ways in which to gain access to your identity, these include:

  • Theft – the most common method
  • Dumpster diving – sensitive documents that people just throw out in the rubbish without shredding or tearing them first
  • Shoulder-surfing – obtaining information through internet activity or listening in on conversations where personal details are exchanged
  • Intercepting mail – postal information often contains sensitive information and fraudsters can easily access mailboxes in apartments where mailboxes are normally situated in one area, away from the apartments
  • Phishing – fraudsters impersonating financial institutions by creating fake websites or asking for authentication of information online

Many people tend to not report their identity documents as stolen or missing and this is when fraudsters get their chance to use their information. Van Schalkwyk urges consumers to immediately report to the South African Police Service once they realise that their identity documents are missing. This will assist them in the event that they need to prove that their documents were used fraudulently.

Consumers should also make use of the SAFPS’s Protective Registration services in order to alert subscribing credit providers of possible identity fraud of a particular identity number should it be used to access credit or access accounts.

“I would really urge consumers to regularly access their credit reports in order for them to pick up any irregular accounts opened in their names,’ advises van Schalkwyk.

Credit reports can be obtained from the various credit bureaus and every consumer is entitled to one free credit report once a year.

Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud to lodge a dispute with regards to fraudulent listings or any other credit bureau matters on 0861 66 2837 or

The SAFPS can be contacted on or 0860 101 248.