The biggest data leak in South African history!

That’s what is being published in the media. It sounds scary, and it is. But what does it really mean and how can you protect yourself against this if it happens again?

The leaked data contains the ID numbers‚ ages‚ marital status‚ occupations‚ estimated incomes‚ addresses and cellphone numbers of millions of South Africans‚ both dead and alive. Scary stuff! Especially if that data lands up in the wrong hands. It is therefore really important that you increase your vigilance when it comes to protecting your digital identity.

How did it happen?

A real estate agency had been using this data, probably sourced from credit bureaus, to allow agents to vet prospects and secure leads. This information was easily available on an open web server on the company’s website. So it wasn’t even a sophisticated hack.


So what happens next?

Poor information control, as in this case, is one of the reasons for the introduction of the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act aimed at protecting us, the people behind the personal information. Once the act is fully effective, estimated in 2018, negligent companies could be liable to up to R10 million in fines and negligent company officers could be jailed for up to ten years.

So, what can we, “normal humans” do?

It is so important, more so now than ever, to be mindful and protect your personal information. Be aware of the value of your Personal Information, it is after all the “currency of the 21st century”.

  • Review your credit score and your accounts frequently.
  • Read the privacy notice on websites before handing over information.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you publish on social media and make sure you have enabled your privacy settings.
  • Protect your personal information and don’t leave it lying around.
  • Don’t trust any unexpected email links or attachments, even from people you know, as their accounts could have been compromised.
  • Remember to use unique passwords for your critical accounts. Having one password for all applications is too risky!
  • Always… think before you click!

If you ever suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft.

Report the matter to the police, your bank and any other organisation that may be concerned immediately.

  • Apply for Protective Registration with the South African Fraud Prevention Service. This will alert the credit provider or the bank that the specific ID number has been compromised.
  • Check your credit report and place a fraud alert or freeze on your credit report.
  • Contact all the companies that have been approached with your fake identity.