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TransUnion tech helps protect clients affected by data leak

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Kriben Reddy, VP: head of consumer and auto information solutions at TransUnion.
Kriben Reddy, VP: head of consumer and auto information solutions at TransUnion.

Consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion has deployed its dark web monitoring technology to help protect the personal data of Absa and Ford Credit customers who are affected by the data leak that occurred last year.

Absa suffereda data leak in November, when an employee unlawfully made selected customer data available to external parties for personal financial gain.

TransUnion’s TrueID software delivers credit report, credit alert data and dark web monitoring to clients of organisations whose data has been leaked or breached, and are at increased risk of identity fraud.

Absa initially said the data leak had impacted a total of 209 000 customers, approximately 2% of its total local client base. However, an ongoing investigation has since revealed that an additional number of customers belonging to Absa and Ford Credit had been affected in the incident.

Absa has a joint venture with automaker Ford SA’s financing solutions arm, Ford Credit. Through the partnership, the bank offers credit solutions to customers buying Ford vehicles. According to the bank, a portion of these customers were affected and it is in the process of informing them.

Upon discovering the contravention, Absa said it secured High Court orders that enabled search and seizure operations at various premises and secured all devices containing the data, which was subsequently destroyed, and affected customers were notified.

As a safety measure,Ford Credit collaborated with TransUnion to help monitor and detect any signs of identity theft, as well as restore the identities of all affected customers.

Kriben Reddy, VP: head of consumer and auto information solutions at TransUnion, saysTrueID uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to detect and uncover illegally used data, validate breaches and determine attribution, so that consumers can be alerted timeously of any new exposure.

“We have just released our global fraud report which shows that one year after COVID-19, digital fraud attempts against businesses have risen by 44% when comparing pre-pandemic to pandemic levels.

“TrueID is a fully-managed identity protection and breach remediation service used by millions of consumers around the world. It helps protect Absa / Ford clients against ID thieves who can use their stolen personal information, such as their ID number, to fraudulently get credit for themselves. The solution takes the hassle out of potentially needing to resolve these kinds of identity theft incidents, which can take months and could result in all kinds of unplanned expenses,” explains Reddy.

TransUnion collects and aggregates information on over one billion individual consumers in over 30 countries across the globe.

Identity theft is a huge problem in SA – according to TransUnion’s research, nearly half of South African consumers have either fallen victim to identity theft, or know someone who has. The problem with identity theft is that victims typically only find out about the theft months later – by which time someone can easily have obtained false lines of credit and racked up significant debt in their name.

TrueID, according to Reddy, combines three main functions to protect customers in an identity theft incident: monitoring – customers receive e-mail or SMS alerts when their personal information is detected on the dark web, or if an enquiry gets done against their credit profile; restores – customers will obtain expert forensic investigator assistance if their identity is stolen; recovers – the solution offers identity theft insurance cover to help recover from identity theft.

“TransUnion analysed a range of industries for a change in the percent of suspected digital fraud attempts against them. The pandemic has shifted South African and global consumer habits to shop and entertain online more than ever before, which has also attracted digital fraudsters who are increasingly targeting related industries,” notes Reddy.

As part of the service, affected Absa and Ford customers will get full access to their credit report and they will receive alerts and score updates when critical changes such an enquiry or negative update occurs on their TransUnion credit report.

Absa and Ford Credit are also utilising the services of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre to ensure investigations are comprehensive.

A criminal case was reported to the South African Police Service and all implicated parties are being investigated.

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