Fwd: Identity theft

By Natasha Joseph

The department of home affairs is urging South Africans to contact its national call centre to find out if they're still alive.

That's because identity theft is taking a grisly new turn, with some fraudsters stealing ID numbers and personal information to register people as dead, in order to benefit from insurance policies.

In other instances, the "deceased" are guilty of colluding with doctors, police officers and their own friends and family, to con the department of home affairs and insurance companies, says departmental spokesperson Joseph Mohajane.

He said on Monday it was "a bit difficult" to say how often this sort of fraud was occurring, but confirmed that it was a national phenomenon which was probably coming to light more frequently, because people had just been involved in voter registration drives across the country.

He said some people were arriving at registration stations only to discover that their status on the national population register was "deceased".

This was the result of forged death certificates, Mohajane said, and underscored the need for people to keep their identity documents safe and not to give out personal details to anyone "for any reason".

"People are unaware that they've been declared dead by someone who wanted to use them for fraudulent activities," Mohajane said.

When a person dies, a form must be filled in by several people in order to notify the department of home affairs, he said.

This included the doctor or medical professional who examined the body and declared the person dead, the police in cases of accidental death, and a family member or close friend.

The next of kin or close friend must provide a thumbprint, and a print must also be made from the thumb of the dead person, he said.

That information is sent to the department for processing, and once all the data is captured in the department's databases, a person is listed as dead.

Mohajane said that in some cases of fraud, "one or two people (who have to fill in the form) may collude".

In other instances, corrupt officials from the department may be involved, he admitted.

"When we find out that someone has been declared dead while they're alive, the first thing we do is go back to their records and look at what's happened - we look for collusion," he said.

Those who find out that they're legally dead need not despair: the situation can be remedied within two weeks.

The first step is to obtain an affidavit from the police or a magistrate's court stating that you are alive.

Several forms, including a birth registration form, must then be filled out at your local home affairs office.

The file will then be handed to the police to begin a criminal investigation, he said.

·  To check if you are listed as living or dead, call home affairs on 0800-60-11-90. It is hoping to have this facility available online soon.


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