Identity fraud costs SA over R1 billion during Covid-19

Identity Fraud Source: Google Images

ACCORDING to a recent local press article, over R1 billion has been claimed from TERS (Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme) through fraudulent or corrupt applications that could’ve been eradicated with the correct ID authentication. 

According to the CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies); the World Bank and United Nations foresee individuals across the globe having a digital identity by 2030. This deadline may appear a long way off for a country that has been forced by its Auditor General to take both the TERS and UIF systems offline and withhold payments, while a direct engagement took place with the Department of Home Affairs to validate the authenticity of millions of ID documents. 

Gur Geva, co-CEO of iiDENTIFii, a player in the biometric identity sector, says “For a country, already in economic dire straits and marred by accusations of corrupt COVID-19 tender contracts implicating government officials, the need for key decision makers across both the public and private sectors to protect themselves against identity fraud is crucial.” 

According to the Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey, South Africa ranks the 3rd highest in the world for reported economic crime with bribery and corruption making up 42% of the type of economic crime after customer crime which stands at 47% for 2019. The level of economic crime in South Africa remains significantly high at 60% compared to the world average of 47%.  

“These numbers are staggering – even more so when the technology exists to eradicate the level of fraudulent activity occurring due to identity theft,” says Geva. “As the level of readily available data increases, so does the proficiency to be able to hack it which means that a significantly larger effort needs to be made at government and executive levels to protect personal information from fraudsters.”

Geva’s company, iiDENTIFii has developed biometric facial recognition technology that interfaces with the Department of Home Affairs and can onboard an individual within 30 seconds that references each facial image with a live selfie of the person and the identity documentation itself. 

“The urgency for which the public and private sectors need to address identity fraud becomes obviously transparent when you see (according to the local press article) that R30 million of the TERS relief fund was paid to people with invalid identity numbers; R696 million to immigrants who have not made UIF contributions in the past year; ‘double dipping’ payments of up to R140 million in state grants; children under the age of 15 receiving payments and a ridiculous R440 000 of these funds being paid out to dead people,” concludes Geva. 

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