Identity theft is up by a massive 337% and Wendy Knowler explains why

Identity theft is up by a massive 337% and Wendy Knowler explains why

Find out why identity theft has seemed to skyrocket and what the future holds for the cruise liner industry.

Identity Theft
Identify theft up by 337%!

HERE’s a not-so-fun fact: fraudsters had a field day in 2020 with so many people working from home, sending sensitive information across servers that don’t have the same level of security as the servers at their normal place of business. 

Impersonation fraud is the act of a criminal impersonating another person by stealing their identity and then opening accounts in their name.

Back in August, we got the news that Experian - a consumer, business and credit information services agency – had experienced a breach of data which exposed the personal information of as many as 24-million South Africans to a suspected fraudster.

Experian stressed at the time that it did not provide the fraudster involved with identity details.

Shortly afterwards, scores of people started complaining that Homechoice accounts had been opened in their names.
Many of them have told me that HomeChoice blamed the Experian leak.

But then why aren’t we seeing scores of complaints about fraudulent accounts being open with other credit providers?
Sadly, Homechoice does not deal directly with journalists.

Their outsourced PR company tells me I can send through cases, and they will investigate, but they aren’t going to be responding to any of my questions. Okay then...

Some of those who complained to me about HomeChoice taking too long to investigate and clear them of responsibility for the fraudulent accounts have since had their issues resolved by Homemark, on their own.

Others have not been so lucky. HomeChoice insisting it could take up to 90 days for their investigation into a fraudulent account to be investigated. THREE MONTHS!

Some have been handed over to debt collectors MBD Attorneys.

Still, almost daily, people are complaining on HelloPeter of waiting since last year for a letter from HomeChoice, confirming that the fraudulent account has been closed and any amounts owing written off.

Last week I got an email from Bonginkosi to say that he told HomeChoice in early December that a fraudulent account had been opened in his name, back in August.

He got the standard “we will get back to you in 30 to 90 days” response, and two months on, he had yet to get any feedback at all.
Expecting people to wait up to three months for the resolution of a fraudulent account is unacceptable, as by the time most of them find out they’ve been a victim of ID fraud, they already have an impaired credit record as a result.  

So they must sit for three months, unable to get any credit? Imagine the impact that could have on someone wanting to buy a car or a house?
At the weekend, HomeChoice’s PR got back to me to say that “the issue has been resolved with the customer.”

Come on, HomeChoice, put more people on the job and get those fraudulent cases finalised and those clearance letters in the hands of the innocent people who got caught up in it. For goodness sake!


*Get into the habit of checking your credit record regularly and sign up for alerts which some bureaus offer so get a message when someone tries to apply for credit in your name.

*Visit the SAFPS website on, and click on protect your identity. Best you have a smartphone and a copy of their ID with you. Otherwise, you can follow the manual process explained on the website.

No plain sailing for cruise industry

It’s been a year of pain for cruiseliner operators and their passengers.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) announced a few days ago that it has cancelled its 2020/2021 cruise season.
Voyages for the remainder of the 2020/21 cruise season will be moved to the next local cruise season between November 2021 and April 2022, with embarkation from both Durban and Cape Town.

“In late December 2020, the Company showcased an onboard inspection of the vessels’ rigorous and robust protocol to the various authorities in South Africa including the Department of Transport, Department of Health, Port Health, Department of Home Affairs together with the South African Maritime Safety Authority,” the company said.

“While authorities indicated that they were satisfied with the protocol MSC Cruises had presented, we are awaiting approval to resume.”

Two new ships will be introduced in November 2021 - MSC Lirica, which will be homeported in Cape Town, and MSC Musica, homeported in Durban.

The upcoming season, COVID-19 allowing, will feature 14 different itineraries across South Africa with cruising ranging in length from 2 to 14 nights.


And so to the thorny issue of recourse.

MSC says: “All guests whose reservations are affected by the cancellation of the 2020/2021 season in South Africa are eligible for a voucher for the value of their current 2020/2021 cruise package. All guests affected will also receive an onboard credit of USD 50 per cabin to be used for their next cruise as a recognition for the involuntary inconvenience caused by the cancellations.”

But CGSO Ombud Magauta Mphahlele says while MSC can charge passengers more than their voucher value if the cruise they choose is different - different destination or more nights, but they can’t increase the price, within three years, of the cancelled cruise.

So I asked MSC: Will MSC be running the identical cruise - same destination, same duration - in the next two seasons, and if so, will those whose cruises were cancelled (not by them) be able to take those like-for-like cruises at no extra cost?


MSC Cruises will be running cruises with the same destinations and same duration in the upcoming local cruise seasons. Guests whose cruises have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 Regulations will have the option to rebook their cruise on an exact like-for-like basis at no extra cost. For example, same departure date a year later, same itinerary and same cabin category.


Contact Wendy

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

Listen to more podcasts from Wendy Knowler in the Consumerwatch channel below:

Main image courtesy of iStock

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