Scammers more active during the festive season

It’s the holiday season and for a lot of us that means shopping, sun and sandy beaches, but there’s a more sinister side to the summer holidays – scammers become more active.

According to financial services provider, DirectAxis’ fraud guide, when it comes to economic crimes, South Africa is one of the most targeted countries in the world. On average, according to the 2018 Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey, the rate of reported economic crime is 77% compared to the average global rate of 49%.

It’s getting worse. The latest figures available show that in 2017 there was a 56% increase in new fraud listings on the South African Fraud Prevention Services and a 52% increase in victim listings.

“The best way to avoid being scammed is not to think it can’t happen to you,” says Samantha Brass, DirectAxis head of Legal, Risk and Compliance.

“Fraudsters target anyone and everyone, so you need to be alert all the time. During the festive season there’s often an increase in scams. This may be because criminals try to target year-end bonuses, or they believe that people relaxing on holiday might not be as vigilant as normal.”

Scams are presented in many different ways, from simple appeals for money, to sophisticated schemes where they imitate recognisable brands’ websites or even friends’ social media. What all have in common is that they are trying to trick you into paying them money or to part with your personal details so they can steal your identity.

The three most common scams are:

Upfront fees

These scams ask you to pay an upfront fee. The reasons given can vary from an administration fee for a loan, to release the funds for a lottery win or for a transfer fee for an inheritance.

Some of these are easier to spot than others. If you’ve not bought a lottery ticket or don’t know the relative who’s left you an inheritance, it’s almost certainly a scam. If it’s a loan that’s offered and the amount seems high and the interest rates very low, be suspicious.

Identity theft

Instead of trying to steal your money, these scams try to get you to hand over personal information such as your ID, passport information, driver’s licence, e-mail account details or payslip. Here’s an example of a personal loan offer scam.

The fraudsters often present these identity theft scams in a similar way to the upfront-fee scams, requesting the information so they can release a lottery payment, competition win, loan or inheritance. Instead, they use the information to open bank or retail accounts or take out loans in your name. You can end up being accountable for these debts.

Remote access your personal and banking information

This happens when criminals download software onto your computer so they can take control of it remotely or see the information you’re typing in.

As with most other scams there are variations of how it works, but a typical example is that you’ll get a call or e-mail from someone pretending to be from one of the big software brands, an IT provider or even your bank. They’ll offer to remotely load some security or protective software or upgrades onto your computer.

Once the software is installed, you’ll be promoted to log into your online banking profile. Then you’ll get one-time passwords (OTPs) on your phone to confirm transactions you haven’t made. The scammer will then ask for these OTPs to ‘block’ them, but actually use the information to steal money from your account.

Scams are not always easy to spot. Fraudsters are constantly coming up with new ways of trying to trick you into paying them money or access your information. Here are DirectAxis’ tips on how to protect yourself:

·        Don’t share your passwords or pin numbers with anyone.

·        Don’t share personal information on social media sites.

·        Never let anyone have remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a well-known company, bank, IT or software provider.

·        Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.

·        Check for security devices on website and social pages such as padlocks and verification ticks/ marks.

·        Be suspicious of e-mails or messages from friends that seem out of character or from well-known companies that contain spelling and grammatical errors or other inconsistencies such as Gmail addresses rather than a company domain e-mail.

·        Scammers use all the channels they can including phone, mail, e-mail and social media. Be careful about answering unsolicited messages.

·        Be wary of payment requests for goods or services you haven’t or don’t remember ordering, especially if you’re asked to use an unusual payment method such as MoneyGram.

·        Check your credit rating regularly. A sudden, negative change in your rating may indicate someone is using your personal information fraudulently.

If you’re suspicious or do get caught out, report the scam. The information you provide may lead to the scammers being prosecuted or at least the scam being shut down, so other people don’t get defrauded.

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