Fraudsters and scammers have become increasingly creative in stealing people’s identities and money, with tricks that could fool even the most vigilant.
With the dawn of the digital age, the number of ways unsuspecting businesses and individuals can be tricked and robbed has grown.
However, there are still a few scams that are more common than others and cause the most problems.
MyBroadband contacted all of South Africa’s major banks to find out which scams are causing the most harm — including Absa, Capitec, FNB, Nedbank, Standard Bank, Bank Zero, Discovery Bank, and TymeBank.
The old favourite of scams among fraudsters is phishing. It’s a con to try and get a target to hand over their PIN and password to criminals.
Phishing messages can come over any text medium, whether WhatsApp, email, or SMS.
Any response to this false communication is potentially dangerous.
Instead, if you receive a message or email asking for account details, don’t respond or click on any links. Rather contact your bank directly to verify whether there is an issue.
It is important to note that banks will never ask for information beyond basic account details. If someone asks for your PIN, card number, or one-time PIN sent on your phone, you should immediately know something isn’t right.
Vishing is a variant of this scam. It uses the same approach as phishing but involves a voice call where the scammer will ask for a one-time PIN just sent to your phone.
Ironically, they will often masquerade as someone from the fraud department trying to stop a fraudulent transaction on your account.
The scammer will make the call sound urgent to try and make you provide information out of fear and concern.
An example of this in South Africa is a recent variant of SIM-swap fraud.
Another prolific scam is through a change of banking details communications — sometimes as part of a larger business email compromise attack.
A scammer will send a message indicating that a business or person’s banking details have changed.
Their goal is to have you make transfers to this new fraudulent account rather than the actual account.
Like with phishing, the easiest way to combat this is to contact the person or company you are paying to confirm any changes directly.
Remember not to use the phone number in the potential fraudster’s email if you’re paying an organisation — get it directly from their website or another independent source.
Deposit and social media scams follow a similar strategy.
Also referred to as advance-fee fraud, this is when scammers offer an enticing deal and ask for a deposit or investment.
Once payment is received, you won’t hear from them again.
Avoiding such scams requires making inquiries about the deal, and the person or company offering it.
This includes checking comparable goods or services and directly contacting the business or company making the offer.
If you can’t find reliable information about it, it’s probably a scam.
In summary, the best way to recognise the most widespread scams is through verification.
Reach out to your bank directly, call the business in question, and never approve anything or provide financial details immediately.
If your searches turn up anything that smells remotely fishy, pass on the offer. Something that’s too good to be true usually is.
If you think there’s something suspicious, you should also contact your bank’s fraud line — all banks have one.
As rife as scams are, most can be avoided with a bit of caution, common sense, and by working with your bank, said FNB digital banking head Giuseppe Virgillito.
“The simplest way for consumers and businesses to support fraud prevention is to pay attention to fraud education and updates from service providers,” Virgillito said.