Debt Centre the home of Consumer Debt Support and Debt Eezy want to share with our readers and clients the latest shocking news that could bear a possible devastating effect on the confidential information of millions of South Africans.
As if the five months of lockdown restrictions and social limitations, the Covid 19 statistics and the rising death toll of it were not bad enough news for us all to get use to, another unexpected financial shock arose to worry about.
About forty percent of all South African’s personal detail got stolen from a leading and trusted credit bureau, leaving close to twenty four million consumers and over eight hundred thousand businesses vulnerable to IT fraudsters.
As one of the most active debt counselling companies and three of the TOP 50 registered debt counsellors in South Africa on social media that keeps up with the news trend. We at Debt Centre were immediately concerned about the repercussions of such a breach of confidential information on this magnified scale for all our consumers.
The story behind the story
On further development we have learned that this breach actually happened as early as May this year, and it nearly took three months to contain. The credit bureau in question confirmed that they have handed over data including ID numbers, telephone numbers, physical and email addresses to someone who presented themselves authorised to obtain that kind of information.
On Thursday, 20 August 2020 all the major banks in South Africa sent out a warnings that their customers must exercise heightened vigilance because that information could be used in identity theft attempts, or to convince people to share more information of their personal affairs.
The credit bureau did not publish this incident before they could complete their own investigation into the matter, and it took them 84 days after the breach before they had conclusive answers. They have discovered that the fraudsters conducted insurance and credit fraud by contacting consumers in order to offer them their own product services.
With the appropriate court order the credit bureau’s forensic investigators and legal teams have seized the hardware from the suspects, and they confirmed that the data was secured and deleted from those systems.
In theory, criminals could use these details to attempt to gain access to various accounts and the South African banks are now advising their customers to change their passwords, and not only the banking ones. By law, banks are required to share your data with credit bureaus, which means that even though you have not interacted, or had any past relations with the credit bureau, your personal details and financial history may have been compromised. If so, you may be vulnerable to being impersonated.
Here’s what you should do – visit email@example.com
If you suspect that your information was compromised then you must immediately contact your bank first, and also apply for a free Protective Registration with the South African Fraud Prevention services (SAFPS). This is a service alert that goes out to all SAFPS members, which includes banks and credit providers, that your identity has been compromised. This will then notify the creditors and banks to be aware that they are actually dealing with a possible illegitimate consumer.
Consumers should be more alert than ever before, to prevent falling victims of fraudulent emails with links and applications that could upload all the information of their devises once they have responded or opened those links. There are many groups of fraudsters that are into online farming of information by installing malware on the client’s computers or mobile devices once their links were accessed.
Criminals are creative and can adjust quickly to the behaviour trends of consumers and will find a way to take advantage where they can, it is easy for them to get consumers to panic and get access information that way.
Tips to prevent of becoming a statistic of crime:
- Never share your PIN or bank account details with anyone for payment or account information updates,
your bank will never contact you asking for this information.
- Change all your passwords on your access accounts regularly.
- When creditors call you to change their payment details at your bank to a new account of theirs, you should contact your creditor back and enquire why their bank details are changing. Inform them of the call you have received. It will help the creditor to inform all their clients that their bank details have not changed.
- Never give out any bank details over the phone to just anyone, rather visit your bank and talk to them directly.
- Be careful to give verification security details over the phone to just anyone.
- Always do your own research of companies offering products online
- Do your homework before downloading any new online apps onto you devices.
Debt review consumers paying a Registered PDA.
Consumers under debt review could also be at risk. The PDA who manage your payments will never contact you to change the banking details of your monthly distribution account. Only your debt counsellor will inform you should there be any changes.
Draw your latest Credit report
It would be a good idea for consumers to draw their credit report every six months to check for any suspicious activity on their profile. New accounts that could have been opened on your name without your knowledge could jeopardise your credit status.
When someone calls to inform you that someone was trying to steal airtime from your account, and they need to send you a new PIN, you must not take part in that call. Customers with a mobile contracts have topped up balances, and thieves need access to those accounts to transfer airtime to their devices.
Note of interest: Our media sources for above story: Business Insider SA- Aug 20, 2020
The reality of what happened to that credit bureau is something we cannot control. As consumers and clients of banking institutions and creditors we have accounts, loans, vehicle finance and home loan accounts that require a monthly contractual payment by means of debit order or EFT direct transfers.
You can become a potential victim to criminals if they get access to that information to scam you out of your money on various devious ways. BE ALERT as all South African citizens are easy targets.
Message from the author:
I was a victim earlier this year when someone illicitly got access to my mobile account to steal my airtime bundles. We have no choice but to remain suspicious of anything out of the ordinary and offers on the phone that sound too good to be true.
It is needless to say that we are all forced into a changed society and lifestyle of social and economic flashes of unwanted news feeds of dramatic events that cause us to distrust what comes our way.
Being currently in level 2 of the Covid 19 lockdown has opened many business sectors of the economy. I hope that the personal situations will improve for those who could start working again. May you have food on the table and share special family moments. I pray for you that have been retrenched or have lost your jobs due to the pandemic, may you find employment soon. Know that God will provide, keep your faith strong and your heads up high. Until next time, God bless.