Combatting Identity Fraud

For many years, South Africans have been victim to fraudulent identity document scams. Why are these so prevalent in our society and how do so many people get away with such fraudulent behaviour with seemingly relative ease?

The answer is very simple: South Africans do not know what to look for when determining the validity of an identity document and the validity of the identity of its holder. In a recent study, Standard Bank identified the following guidelines to determine the validity of an identity document:

  • Photographs can be in black and white or coloured
  • Compare the photo to the customer presenting it (sometimes they are similar but not the same)
  • All the printing should be the same density
  • Font – all the letters should be of the same type and size
  • The only time that the font will vary in size is when there are numerous forenames
  • Printing must be straight – no roller coaster effect
  • Compare the identity number to the driver's licence page
  • Compare the age of the person to the date of birth
  • Four coat of arms appear on the photo page, of which two must touch the photo
  • The coat of arms used on the outer cover must be the same as the coat of arms appearing on the laminated pages
  • Pages 1 and 4 will reflect four coat of arms

Identity documents are printed on security paper, which will reflect a watermark triangle with RSA printed inside this triangle. This will become evident if the paper is held against white ultraviolet (UV) light. Should the watermark "Classic Crest" or "Environment" appear, this would indicate that fraudulent watermarked paper was used. By placing the identity document under an UV light, the following should be taken into account.

Only the photo and the coat of arms should light up

  • If the lamination has been lifted to replace the photograph the page will shine under UV light
  • If the photo has been tampered with, glue will shine on the back of the photo.
  • A thorough examination of the identity number can go a long way in ascertaining the validity of an identity document.

A thorough examination of the identity number can go a long way in ascertaining the validity of an identity document.

Robert Maclean of SA Dev. explains that an identity number represents the following:

  • The first six numbers are the birth date of the person in YYMMDD format.
  • The next four represent gender, 5000 and above is male and below 5000 is female.
  • The next number is the country identification, 0 is South Africa and 1 is not.
  • The second last number used to be a racial identifier but now means nothing.
  • The last number is a check bit. This verifies the rest of the number.

For the past decade, the Department of Home Affairs been talking about introducing electronic "Smart" ID Cards, which will contain personal and biometric information on a credit-card-sized document. Such system is to be introduced to specifically to combat identity fraud by capturing information on-line and not on paper. The advantage of such a system remains to be seen, but at present the aforesaid guidelines are the best way of protecting ourselves and our businesses.

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