The planned security measures that the Department of Homes Affairs intends introducing in its new passports is not going to solve the problem of false passports being issued to syndicate criminals and suspected terrorists as happened in the past.
Fred Steffers, MD of the Consumer Profile Bureau, says the present South African passport had some of the best security measures of any passport worldwide – the problem was that they were being sold under the counter by home affairs officials or were issued to fraudsters who applied with false or forged ID books.
Patrick Cunningham, CEO of SA Fraud Prevention Services, says false ID books are still flooding the market both in forged version as well as legitimate documents sold under the counter by corrupt home affairs officials.
"Changing the security measures on South African passports is not going to make any difference whatsoever to the number of bogus passports that are haemorrhaging of the home affairs department because false IDs are being used to procure legitimate passports," he says.
Identity theft is on the increase and it is costing the South African economy in excess of R1-billion a year.
Steffers says that, in addition to facilitating the travel of criminals – which is why the UK introduced visa restrictions for South Africans – false passports and IDs were also widely used to commit fraud on a massive scale.
"Armed with the identity number of someone with a good credit history, it is a simple matter to open numerous accounts in that person's name and to then go on a spending spree," he says. "The victim of ID fraud only becomes aware that his ID was being falsely used when letters of demand and summonses from retailers started arriving on his doorstep."
Growing numbers of South Africans are being adversely listed because their IDs are being used by fraud syndicates. The better the credit rating of individuals the greater the chances that they are going to become the targets of syndicates who use their identities to defraud business, both in South Africa and internationally.
Steffers says South Africans generally did not protect their identity documents well enough and provided their ID numbers far too readily.
"There is a widespread lack of understanding of just how valuable this information is. An ID document should be protected just as carefully as a cheque book or a credit card."