Identity theft costs SA over R1bn a year

The identity theft industry is costing South African businesses in excess of R1 billion annually, according to a statement by the South African Fraud Prevention Association this year.

This staggering cost highlights the need for SA businesses to implement effective document destruction protocols in order to minimise the risk of identity theft for its customers. The looming implementation of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Bill, adds to the gravitas of the situation. Business records containing customers’ personal information should never be put into a general waste or recycling bin where it can be accessed by criminals, as this creates a great risk for identity theft.

All businesses must familiarise its employees with the industry specific POPI requirements and ensure adherence in order to protect its customers from identity theft. An effective measure to implement is to shred all expired documentation in a secure environment, thereby protecting the organisation from fines resulting from a POPI breach, but most importantly protecting its customers’ personal details.

The study by the South African Fraud Prevention Association which revealed 3600 cases of identity theft in 2014 and predicted a staggering 4 000 cases in 2015. This steady increase in identity theft places organisations and its clients under greater risk of legal, financial and reputational repercussions and must not be taken lightly.

The latest trend in Identity theft involves the use of copies of personal identity documents in order to gain access to bank account details. Criminals use this information to alter bank account details and to take out long-term loans, leaving the victim in long–term debt. Sadly, identity theft victims find out at the very last minute, often if they go to a bank to apply for a home loan or credit card, to find that they have been declined due to an existing home loan or credit card.

Do not throw away receipts or bills or any documentation that contains personal information. Shredding documentation immediately following expiration of its storage period, is the most effective way to prevent identity theft through paper documents.

Businesses should always consider a secure shredding process when destroying important and personal information, this in turn protects the organization, clients and employees from possible identity theft.