Wendy on keeping your personal info out of the wrong hands

Wendy on keeping your personal info out of the wrong hands

Despite the fact that identity fraud is rife, most consumers are far too trusting and willing to allow people to walk off and make copies of their IDs, and happily hand over their bank statements, and pay slips - all things that are gold in the hands of an ID fraudster without asking any questions about the company’s protection of information procedures.

ID documents
File photo

In the wrong hands - and there are plenty of “wrong hands” out there - that information allows someone to pretend to be you and open accounts in your name, leaving you to pick up the tab.


Then the company will chase you for the money, and you are left to jump through hoops to prove that it wasn’t you, and prove to a credit bureau that you don’t deserve to be “blacklisted” for the fraudulent debt.


The Protection of Personal Information Act, commonly referred to as POPI, requires companies to go to great lengths to protect consumers’ personal information, but it’s not quite in force etc. - it’s been passed into law, but it needs a signature and publishing in the Govt Gazette, so it’s pending. But companies should be at least in the process of complying.

Alas, at store level, some are still getting it horribly wrong.


Stacey Ellis-Clarke's story 


Stacey Ellis-Clarke of Pietermaritzburg was appalled to discover that her account application form had been left in open sight in Mr Price’s Midlands Mall branch, a week after she’d filled it in.


She’d gone up to the store’s counter to find out why she hadn’t had the promised feedback about her application. On spotting her form carelessly left for all to see, she said she wasn't interested in the account anymore and asked for her form back, but, she says, the woman dealing with her was incredibly rude. She initially refused to give the form to Stacey, but did eventually and Stacey then tore it up.

It got worse. The store couldn't find any of the documents she’d submitted with her application a week earlier - the copy of her  ID, payslips and bank statements. 


She was appalled, of course, and understandably scared that she’d be the victim of ID fraud, but she couldn’t get anyone to take her seriously, she says.


When Consumerwatch took up the case, Mr Price Money’s operations executive Colin Salvesen was suitably appalled, admitted the company had failed Stacey and apologised to her.


What should have happened to her documents?


According to Salvesen,  they should have been scanned and then returned to her, and they should never have been left in very visible processing tray. Nor should Stacey have been treated as she was when she wanted answers.


The good news is that from next month Mr Price will start moving from the current paper-based application procedure to capturing and processing all new account applications electronically, via an iPad app.

partly in order to comply with the handling of “sensitive” information provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act.


Too late for Stacey, of course  - she has no idea where her personal documents are now.


“It really is very serious,” she says, "At some point somebody could steal my identity, or access my bank account. You  all these horror stories of identity theft, and it’s something that you never think will happen to you until your ID and other confidential info is gone; somebody that shouldn’t have your information has it. And it’s very scary."


What to do 


Guard your ID and other personal info like you guard your bank cards.


The SA Fraud Prevention Service advises consumers when applying for credit to check that the staff member assisting them has the necessary level of authority and expertise, to record their name, and make sure that your ID book or card doesn’t leave your sight. Accompany them to a back room to make copies, if necessary, if they haven’t switched to digital capture.

Always make sure that your ID book and any other documents containing your personal information are returned to you.


If your ID has been lost or stolen, contact the SA Fraud Prevention Service and ask for Protection Registration.  It’s a free service, which triggers an alert when someone presents their ID number and other personal details for a credit application. It means that you have to carry an alternative form of ID to prove you're the real deal, but it’s worth the schlep. Call SAFPS on 0860 101 248.

 (File photo)

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