The Experian data breach announced this week by Experian has highlighted the need for South Africans to increase their vigilance against fraudsters, who may pretend to be someone else. They try to convince unsuspecting consumers to divulge information like, PINs and passwords.

Piet Swanepoel, Chief Risk Officer for African Bank explains that the breach of data means that certain customers’ personal information, including the likes of identity numbers, cellphone numbers etc. has been compromised. “The reality is that the compromise of personal information can create opportunities for criminals to impersonate an individual, but it is important to understand that this does not provide access to a customer’s banking account details. Fraudsters will not be able to access any of your banking details,” reassures Swanepoel.

He explains that the breach has impacted banking customers at all banks in South Africa. By law, banks need to disclose all details of their customers who have credit with them to the three main credit bureaus, one of which is the Experian credit bureau.  Swanepoel says that as soon as the breach was made known, banks immediately enhanced their security measures to protect customers.

“Customers should however remain aware that fraudsters can impersonate a bank and contact them pretending to be their bank since they may now have access to their ID and their cell numbers.”

Swanepoel advises all banking customers to remain vigilant against possible fraud and to remember:

  • Fraudsters can impersonate a bank and contact customers and pretend to be their bank since they may know your ID and their cell number.
  • Never disclose usernames, passwords, PINs or One Time Pins (OTPs) when asked to do so by anyone via telephone, fax, text messages or even email, no matter how believable they are. A bank will NEVER ask this information of you.
  • Change your passwords regularly and never share them with anyone.
  • Customers are advised to monitor their accounts and always report suspicious behaviour. They should call their bank fraud line to alert the bank to any suspicious activity on their account if they are worried.
  • Be vigilant as fraudsters sound very convincing

“Bank customers can also apply for a free Protective Registration listing with the Southern African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS), which would alert banks and credit providers that an identity has been compromised. You can apply by emailing,” says Swanepoel.

Regardless of the current breach, Swanepoel says data security is critical, now more than ever as scammers increasingly try and take advantage of unsuspecting customers. “It is therefore important to learn how to protect yourself from being a victim of these scams and always apply the following seven tips that will help you safeguard yourself,” concludes Swanepoel.

  1. Be aware of any suspicious emails or any other unusual electronic activity that may come across your screens, phones and emails.
  2. Do not click on any unfamiliar or suspicious links, or comply with requests for sensitive/private information, unless you are 100% sure you can trust the source.
  3. Be aware of disinformation campaigns and hoaxes, particularly on social media.
  4. Make sure your password for each critical site is strong and unique. Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible. This means combining your username and password with something that you own, such as a One Time Password app on your phone.
  5. Apply all basic security features. Keep your operating system, plug-ins and anti-virus software up to date and apply security patches when necessary.
  6. Secure your home Wi-Fi network.
  7. Use a virtual private network (VPN) which provides a secure tunnel for all your internet traffic, preventing criminals from intercepting your data.