An identity is stolen every 29 seconds in South Africa, and while one may assume that these are solely business cases – in which a couple of accounts were opened and a few thousand lost, the lucrative business of identity theft goes much deeper.
“The identity fraud ‘industry’ is worth about a billion rand and fraudsters are becoming more and more advanced in terms of the technology and practises deployed when it comes to identifying their next targets. With this in mind, businesses need to take extra precaution,” says Mark Chirnside, CEO of ThisIsMe, an identity verification company that helps organisations prevent fraud, easily manage compliance (KYC) while improving customer experience.
He highlights that it is not only consumers who are at risk of having their identities stolen. “Prime targets are actually businesses themselves – of all sizes and across various industries. Business identity theft involves impersonating and defrauding a company and it can occur through the theft or misuse of company credentials and the manipulation or falsification of business documents and intellectual property.
“While such documentation and intellectual property may seem secure within a trusted circle of staff, businesses may not realise they are at risk when sharing such details with employees, clients, customers and even suppliers who aren’t really who they say they are,” he adds.
ThisIsMe provides app-based solutions in this regard – verifying people’s true identity to protect your own. “This includes FICA compliance checks that encompass ID, address and cell-phone number verification. This way, whether it is a prospective staff member or an enquiring supplier, you can be sure of who you are sharing information with,” Chirnside explains.
He highlights that taking extra care in your dealings as a responsible company is especially vital considering that South African businesses have recently noted an increase in corporate identity theft incidents. The 2015 Metrofile Information and Records Management Index (released towards the end of last year) noted that 7% of respondents had become a victim of corporate identity theft in the 12 month period leading up to the survey.
“As fraud continues to take the spotlight worldwide, it is just not viable for businesses to ignore this growing trend. Corporate identity theft scams can result in not only financial losses but also reputational damage and legal action. It also has additional implications for the company’s staff, clients and suppliers in the event that their personal information is leaked.”
“Under South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act, businesses have a legal obligation to ensure that the personal information of all customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders remain secure,” Chirnside adds.