New ID cards to counter fraud

Justine Pearce

Identity theft has been of serious concern for South Africans, however with the new ID Smart card this may soon be nearly impossible.

Most South Africans use their green ID (identity document) book as means of identification, these are fairly easy to copy or even share. Teenagers attempting to get into clubs share ID books each weekend, but worse that this ID books are stolen, pictures are changed and people’s identities are thus stolen.

Investigative television series, Carte Blanche explored how simple it was to change features in an ID book with household equipment like irons. The plastic over the photograph is heated, lifted and the photograph is replaced with that of the forger’s client. This person can then use this ID document as their own and due to the fact that they have the identity of another they can use this to access the real owner of the identities bank accounts as in the Gary Phillips case..

Philips, a businessman from Kwa-Zulu Natal, had his ID stolen. This lead to his bank cards being re-issued multiple times no matter the bank he moved to try and escape the fraud, even credit cards were issued, but the banks had nothing to say on the issue.  

Joseph Sithole was another of Carte Blanche’s examples of a man whose life was disrupted by identity theft. He was informed by SARS that he owed large amounts of taxes due when an ID thief used his details to fraudulently gain employment. 

Stories like these are proof that not only is it easy to steal and then change the picture on the green ID book, but furthermore, once stolen the new owner can do as they please and continue to be fraudulent. 

The South African government are beginning to slowly fix this problem by beginning the process of issuing new smart ID cards which will be close to impossible to copy.

Only a few South Africans have been issued their cards, such as past and present presidents as well as several elderly citizens. Those who have yet to apply for their first ID will too be issued with a smart ID card. The department of home affairs will be working alphabetically in order to issue these cards to all South Africans.

The photograph on the smart ID card will not be removable and frauds will be incapable of placing new pictures on top of the original photograph. They will also have one’s fingerprints or a barcode (for the physically challenged) embedded in them. This will then make others unable to steal the identity of the card holder even if the card is stolen.

Although the cards have begun to be issued they will not take over entirely very soon, home affairs offices are still being equipped with the correct technology to read these new cards as are businesses such as banks.

Once all is in place however it seems that the identity of South African citizens will be safe. First time ID applicants will not be charged however, for the rest of the country this will come at a cost as the cards will cost R140, the same as a new ID book. On receiving the card, ID books will be reclaimed by Home affairs in order to slowly rid the system of ID books entirely.

In order to obtain one of these smart ID cards South Africans will need to wait their turn (as the process will be done alphabetically), a fee of R 140 will need to be paid, ID books will need to be shown and fingerprints re-taken, the department will take the photograph for the card at the offices and two weeks after this process applicants will trade their ID book for their smart ID card.

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