20m ghost ID books in SA

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 12 Sept 2012

South Africa has close to 20 million ghost identity books, as the country continues to struggle with identity theft.

So said Michael Henderson, CFO of credit bureau Xpert Decision Systems, in a keynote address at the ITWeb IDentity Indaba, in Bryanston, yesterday.

According to Henderson, the discrepancies in the demographics presented by different official bodies show that ID theft is rampant in SA.

“Stats SA reckons there are 28 million people aged over 21. The IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] has 23 million registered voters. However, the credit bureaus have 38 million people registered, meaning they have 38 million identities. Bear in mind that they might be over the age of 18, eligible to vote, and old enough to feature in the Stats SA data of those over 16.

“So that doesn't seem to tie up. The results for the census will be out this year. Stats SA reckons there are about 52 million people in SA. With our demographics, you would expect 35% to 40% of our population would be under the age of 16,” Henderson explained.

Therefore, he added, one would expect 30 million to 33 million to be over the age of 16, and according to Stats SA, there are about 34 million people over the age of 16 - that seems to tie up.

“But Home Affairs - bear in mind one is eligible to get an ID book aged 16 and above - has issued 54 million ID books, which are currently in circulation. However, the department is a bit behind in knocking off the deceased.”

According to Henderson, really interesting and illuminating is the chip card that Home Affairs plans on rolling out - in a three-year programme at 10 million cards a year.

“When I did Maths, three times 10 was 30, and 30 seems to tie in with Stats SA's prediction of the over 16s. So where is the difference and where is the variance?

“I can give you part of the answer. There are about 12 to 15 million people more on the credit bureaus than should be. There are about 12 to 15 million more people in terms of the ID books issued with what census data would have you predict.”

Therefore, he pointed out that there are about 12 million to 15 million people who will not get a chip card ID.

“Home Affairs have definitely got their act together, but we have about 15 million people running around with a green ID book that do not have a chip card.”

Also speaking at the event, Marius Coetzee, MD of Ideco Biometric Security Solutions, revealed that the Department of Home Affairs is battling to control identity fraud.

“The biggest cases that were discovered was that one individual was in possession of nine different names, while another individual had 26 ID books and one lady was said to have 3 046 children,” said Coetzee.

Speaking about the smart IDs, Coetzee said they will improve identification processes through the use of biometrics, but they cannot solve the identity fraud problem on their own.

“I am an engineer and something that I make is bound to be breached by another engineer. Banks, financial institutions and retailers will still need effective biometric-based identity control systems to augment the smart IDs.”

Henderson also revealed that, just because one is dead, does not mean they cannot be robbed.

“Personal data of 2.4 million deceased Americans is stolen each year, and that is equivalent to 6 500 per day.The criminals typically apply for credit cards, cellphones and anything else requiring a credit check.

“ID fraud will become, and is already, one of your major challenges. It will be for some time to come, and the only solution is a pooling of data in some sort of commercial structure,” Henderson concluded.