Pretoria - Nkele Molapo, who speaks for ActionSA Tshwane, is among the latest victims of identity theft. Someone is using her identity to get people to give them money.
The police and others have warned of cybersecurity breaches and an increase in online scams, which have targeted well-known and ordinary South Africans.
Said Nkele: "A person, TS Maswanganyi according to their bank details, took my social media profile picture, set up a WhatsApp account with a new number (not mine) and asked my friends and colleagues for money.
"They pretended to be me and when they were called back, they did not respond. The assumption by the victim then was that I was in some kind of trouble and could not talk."
She said that in addition to the initials and surname, they also had the fraudster's account number.
"They did this on Monday. One of the victims called me on this phone number yesterday, checking if I was okay, I said yes, and he asked if I borrowed money from him, I said no. That is when he realised he had been scammed.
"I then went to open an identity theft case at Akasia police station and the victim will also open a fraud case against the fraudster."
Molapo fears that the alleged fraudster might commit more crimes using her identity.
Usually, fraudsters open accounts or take out loans using false identities. Victims can be left with huge amounts of debts and fraud cases if they are unable to clear their names.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide, and anyone can become a victim. Fraudsters find new ways every day to obtain information about their victims.
Credit bureau Transunion said identity theft could go undetected for months as it was a silent crime. A person’s identity could be stolen in many ways, such as obtaining information from social media profiles.
Only one victim who sent money to the scammer pretending to be Molapo has come forward. He is Molapo’s colleague who sent R2 400 to the account.
Molapo said people had believed they were helping out a colleague in need and hadn’t realised they were being scammed.
Molapo warned people not to fall prey to the scam.
The South African Fraud Prevention Service, a non-profit organisation that assists in preventing fraud as a result of identity theft and impersonation and which protects victims from the associated financial impacts, urged the public to always be careful, and to rather “err on the side of caution rather than fall victim’’.
Victims are advised to open a case of identity theft, and to protect their personal information.
“Unfortunately, in Molapo's case, her profile picture from her social media account was used, and there is no way you can stop people from downloading your picture on the internet,” it said.
The South African Fraud Prevention Service said people were scamming others on social media, by using false media accounts that misled people and lured them into sending them money.
The SAPS said: “Fraud is a serious offence, and if found guilty, there will be serious consequences.”