Banking fraud: How to protect yourself

By Staff Writer

Banking fraud is a growing challenge in South Africa and globally, yet many consumers remain susceptible to it. We approached banking experts to discuss the measures you can take to avoid becoming a victim.

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Be cautious

Nitesh Patel, head of customer financial solutions for personal banking at Standard Bank, notes the ease with which personal information can be accessed.

“Customers need to be on their guard. It’s easy to throw away documents containing bank account details or other personal data, not realising the implications of this action. The long-term costs could be significant,” says Patel.

Stolen or switched cards present another threat, according to Deon Louw, head of card and merchant fraud at Nedbank. This tends to happen at or around ATMs, and can occur without the consumer being aware that anything amiss has happened. The fraudster will withdraw as much cash as possible, as rapidly as they can, before the victim has a chance to stop their card or notify the bank.

Card protection

It goes without saying that you should never disclose your PIN to anyone, including immediate family members, nor should you write it down. In addition, you should change your PIN regularly, and avoid using obvious combinations.

Henk Vermeulen, FNB fraud specialist, notes that you should use a different PIN for each of your cards. You should also keep a close eye, he says, on transaction notifications. You can set a minimum transaction value, such as R100, to avoid excessive notifications.

Nedbank and Standard Bank both stress the importance of signing the back of your bank or credit card the moment that you receive it.

Louw makes the following additional recommendations.

  • Never allow your credit card to be taken out of your sight at a restaurant, petrol station or other merchant.
  • Scrutinise your credit card statements on a regular basis and report suspicious transactions immediately.
  • Do not lend your credit card to a spouse, friend or child.
  • Ensure that your bank has your current contact details to enable them to contact you should they identify any suspicious activity on your card account.
  • Always shield EFT or ATM keypads from onlookers, and potentially cameras, with your unused hand when you type in your PIN.

Online shopping cautions

Online shopping is an increasingly popular way to purchase items not easily accessible in your locality, or in South Africa generally, from the convenience and relative safety of your home or office.

However, with its growth in popularity, online shopping is also host to a boom in fraudulent transactions. Nedbank offers the following advice to avoid becoming a victim.

  • Place orders on secure websites only – the text “https” should precede the URL, and the URL line should contain a padlock symbol.
  • Never send emails that include your credit card number and expiry date.
  • Stick to sites that use 3D Secure for payment. These may be identified as Verified by VISA, MasterCard Secure Code and Amex Safekey.
  • Shop only at reputable and reliable stores.
  • When purchasing at a store you have never used before, search for reviews and complaints, especially as regards the use of credit cards.
  • Only supply personal information via a secure form.
  • Only shop at sites that have a privacy policy.
  • Remember to keep a record of purchases.
  • Check your credit card statements and notify your bank of any transactions that have been made without your knowledge or consent.
  • Be mindful of shipping costs, and ensure the purchase total matches up with what was shown in your shopping cart.

Phishing avoidance

An email that fraudulently attempts to secure personal information is known as a phishing scam. To avoid succumbing to this, Absa suggests the following.

  • Be suspicious of emails that are not personally addressed to you, e.g., “Dear Valued Customer”.
  • Never click on an email link to access online banking, or use a bookmarked website. Rather go to the bank’s website and login from there.
  • Never enter your PIN or partial password via an email or linked site.
  • Don’t respond to suspicious emails. By doing so you simply verify to the fraudsters that your email address is valid and they will target you again.
  • When in doubt, delete the email or call your bank to alert them to a possible phishing attempt.

Vermeulen adds that you should always ensure that your antivirus software is enabled and up to date.

Some final safety precautions

In addition to these safety measures, each bank has their own security measures on their online banking sites. It’s important that you are familiar with your bank’s policies to ensure that you don’t accidentally visit a fraudulent site. For example, Absa notes that they will never ask a customer to enter their entire password, but rather, four random characters from the password.

If you suspect that you have been a victim of card fraud, or you have lost your card, it’s important that you contact your bank immediately. Patel says you may be required to report the incident to the police and get a case number.

Patel adds, “While anyone can fall prey to fraud or loss, being vigilant can minimise the damage. If you suspect foul play, act immediately. It’s better to overreact than to suffer the consequences of being a victim.”

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