As if South Africans aren’t going through enough at the moment, Experian, one of the country’s biggest credit bureaus, was hit by a massive data breach.

According to reports, approximately 24 million South Africans and close to 800 000 businesses’ personal information was compromised after a fraudster allegedly posed as a client of the credit bureau. The credit bureau has gone on to confirm that it accidentally exposed consumer information, such as ID numbers, contact numbers, and physical and e-mail addresses, to this supposed “client”. 

What exactly is Experian, and why do they have this information?

Experian is one of the country’s registered credit bureaus. In a nutshell, it gathers information about a consumer’s credit history and keeps a record of the consumer’s personal information, various accounts and rate at which they repay debt. Credit providers can access a consumer’s credit record to determine the risk and affordability before giving more credit.

Why should I be concerned about the Experian data breach?

Well, let’s start with a bit of good news – Experian has confirmed that no banking credentials were compromised, which means that the fraudster does not have direct access to your bank accounts. “While South Africans should take comfort in knowing that the breach hasn’t allowed anyone direct access to their personal bank accounts, there is still a chance of becoming a victim of identity theft,” warns Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director. “What this means is that someone can fraudulently assume your identity to obtain credit, take out a loan, escape criminal prosecution, claim life insurance benefits and steal social grants, to name a few.”  What’s more, fraudsters may use your personal information to make contact with you, pretending to be someone from a financial institution, in an attempt to obtain your banking details.

What should I do if I think my identity has been stolen as a result of the Experian data breach?

There are three crucial things to do after your information has been stolen:

1. Alerts banks and credit providers about potential fraud.

The old adage of rather being safe than sorry is applicable here – whether you think your identity has been stolen or if you want to take a preventative measure, your best bet, is to immediately apply for Protective Registration with the Southern Africa Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS). This FREE service sends out alerts to all SAFPS members, which include banks and credit providers, that there is a potentially suspicious transaction happening in your name and that they must take action and confirm the authenticity of the identity holder. 

2. Obtain a credit report and check your credit profile

To do this, you will need to approach a credit bureau and request your credit report. “Remember, if you haven’t requested one this year, it’s your legal right to get one free one every year,” states Nagtegaal.  The report will give you insight into any accounts that may have been opened in your name and inquiries on your profile that you may not be aware of.  If anything looks fishy, you can escalate the issue. Not only do LAW FOR ALL policyholders benefit from legal experts conducting this credit check for them for FREE, but they can also rely on caring legal professionals to help them go through a credit report, explain what the different listings are and assist with removing or disputing adverse listings.  Read up on how to dispute a credit listing in LAW FOR ALL’s write-up

3. Get in touch with Southern African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS)

In an interview with MoneyWeb, CEO of SAFPS Manie van Schalkwyk said, “ If you become a victim of identity theft, you can contact the SAS, which is the organisation that I work for. It’s a non-profit organisation, and we do a free service to consumers for additional protection. They can email us at, and we will get in contact with them. Or they can just SMS the word protectID, one word, to the number 43366”.

Now is the time to take extra precautionary measures

Whether your personal data has been breached or not, it’s also best to be as careful as possible with your personal and financial information. According to a May 2020 report by Accenture, a top international tech and business company, South Africa has the third most cybercrime victims in the world, resulting in losses of approximately R2.2 billion per year.  It’s time to be more vigilant than ever before.

Six ways to keep your personal data secure

  1. Never disclose your personal banking information, like passwords, OTPs or PINS, to anyone on any communication channel. This includes your bank because banks will never ask for this information via telephone, SMS or email!
  2. Be sure to change your passwords regularly (and keep it to yourself).
  3. If you are in the process of doing something that requires you to share personal information, always verify any requests to do so.
  4. When making online transactions or payments, make sure it is via a secure website.
  5. Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date on your PC, laptop and mobile device. Perform scans for any malware regularly. 
  6. Never ever click on any links you receive in e-mails from your “bank”. Again, your bank will never ask you to confirm your information in this manner.  

We’ve got your back!

LAW FOR ALL’s experienced lawyers can provide legal advice and guidance on matters relating to identity theft. What’s more, we offer free credit checks and guidance on listings. Be sure to have a look at LAW FOR ALL’s comprehensive policies. Sign up today!