Experian, a consumer credit reporting company, says it has experienced a breach of data which has exposed some personal information of as many as 24 million South Africans, and 793,749 business entities, to a suspected fraudster.
“Experian has confirmed that the breach has been reported to law enforcement and the appropriate regulatory authorities,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday (19 August).
“Banks have been working with Experian and South African Banking Risk Centre (SABRIC) to identify which of their customers may have been exposed to the breach and to protect their personal information, even as the investigation unfolds.”
Banks and SABRIC have also been cooperating with Experian in their efforts to secure the data and ensure the perpetrators are brought to book, it said.
Experian said that banks will communicate with their customers about how they may be affected by the breach and what is being done to protect them.
“The compromise of personal information can create opportunities for criminals to impersonate you but does not guarantee access to your banking profile or accounts. However, criminals can use this information to trick you into disclosing your confidential banking details,” said SABRIC chief executive officer, Nischal Mewalall.
Should you suspect that your identity has been compromised, Experian called on people to apply immediately for a free Protective Registration listing with Southern Africa Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).
This service alerts SAFPS members, which includes banks and credit providers, that your identity has been compromised and that additional care needs to be taken to confirm that they are transacting with the legitimate identity holder, Experian said.
SABRIC and SAFPS urged bank customers and other consumers to follow sound identity management practices to mitigate the risk of impersonation and fraudulent applications in your name. “Think of your identity information in the same way as you think of cash,” said Manie van Schalkwyk, SAFPS chief executive.
“Keep it safe and secure at all times, because once it is compromised, it can be used by anybody, often to impersonate you.”
It is also recommended that bank customers follow precautionary measures, including:
- Do not disclose personal information such as passwords and PINs when asked to do so by anyone via telephone, fax, text messages or even email.
- Change your password regularly and never share them with anyone else.
- Verify all requests for personal information and only provide it when there is a legitimate reason to do so.