South Africa urged to adopt biometrics amid growing ID fraud

South Africa urged to adopt biometrics amid growing ID fraud

There have been recommendations from various quarters for the South African government to adopt biometric technology in order to stem the rising tide of identity fraud which recently caused the government losses in excess of one billion rand – more than US$61 million.

Africa’s second biggest economy is reported to have incurred such huge financial losses during the period when the country was under strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, according to biometric technology provider iiDENTIFii.

The money was lost to claims from the Temporary Employee/Employer Scheme dubbed TERS. The identity fraud which led to the huge losses would have been avoided if biometric authentication was in place, iiDENTIFii said.

Reacting to the development, iiDENTIFii’s Co-Chief Executive Officer, Gur Geva, said the importance of putting in place effective mechanisms to fight identity fraud in South Africa cannot be overemphasized especially for a nation that is facing huge fiscal constraints.

The co-CEO said the situation is even more worrying given that the country is ranked the third worst in the world for economic crimes according to the Global Economic Crime and Fraud survey, with a domestic economic crime rate as high as 60 percent.

“These numbers are staggering – even more so when the technology exists to eradicate the level of fraudulent activity occurring due to identity theft. As the level of readily available data increases, so does the proficiency to be able to hack it which means that a significantly larger effort needs to be made at government and executive levels to protect personal information from fraudsters,” said Geva.

He said the urgency in tackling identity fraud in South Africa is even more glaring as TERS funds were paid to diverse categories of people including those with invalid identity numbers, immigrants who did not make UIF contributions in the last year, children under the age of 15 and in the worst case to dead people.

Meanwhile, an iiDENTIFii representative told Biometric Update in an email that biometric technology – like the one they provide – would have helped save the government from suffering such huge financial losses. The company said its technology is able to “detect false identity documents, reducing the likelihood of someone stealing another’s identity…” and can authenticate user identity during the onboarding process while creating a frictionless experience. The company added that it can correct the current situation of false identities of people being accepted by authorities by ensuring that “payments go to the correct individuals.”

On the aspect of compliance, iiDENTIFii said its system conforms to the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), meaning it fully abides to South Africa and Europe’s data protection policies.

The company added that they authenticate identities by subjecting users to a three-way facial recognition process which ensures a comparison of the user’s selfie and ID document data with the relevant government databases.

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