How to protect yourself from financial fraud

By Athenkosi Sawutana

Financial fraud is prevalent in South Africa, as it is globally. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), cybercrime, in particular, is becoming even more common than ‘traditional’ bank crimes. In 2019, some R284.4 million was stolen via digital means, an 8% increase from 2018, while credit card fraud accounted for R37.2 million.

“This is because digital platforms, which enable cybercrime, transcend time and physical proximity due to their virtual nature,” says SABRIC CEO, Nischal Mewalall.

The convenience and anonymity of the internet, says Mewalall, make it easy for criminals to perpetrate these crimes.

“Not only do these digital attacks enable unauthorised access to devices, identity theft and online bank information theft, they also have the potential to infiltrate networks, resulting in mass data breaches,” he says.

How can you, as a consumer, protect yourself from these crimes? SABRIC provides the following guidelines.

Tip: By signing up with CreditSav, you’ll be able to detect fraudulent activities in your accounts.

Ensure you’re not a victim

 When it comes to contact crimes, SABRIC recommends adhering to these tips.

  • Carry as little cash as possible.
  • Consider paying your accounts electronically, and consult your bank about other available options.
  • Never make your bank visits public, even to people close to you.
  • Alternate the days and times on which you deposit cash.
  • Do not openly display the money you are depositing while you are standing in the bank queue.
  • Refrain from giving wages to your contract or casual labourers in view of the public. Rather make use of wage accounts that can be provided by your bank.

With regards to cybercrime, SABRIC urges you to take note of the following.

DO:

  • Use strong passwords for all your accounts.
  • Change your passwords regularly and keep them to yourself.
  • Store personal and financial documentation safely. Always lock it away.
  • Keep PINs and passwords confidential.
  • Verify all requests for personal information and only provide it when there is a legitimate reason to do so.
  • Alert the SA Fraud Prevention Service immediately on 0860 101 248 or at safps.org.za, should your ID be used to commit fraud or be stolen.
  • Ensure that you have a robust firewall, and install antivirus software to prevent a computer virus from sending out personal information from your computer.
  • Either shred or burn documents containing personal information. Don’t tear or put them in a garbage or recycling bag.
  • Report a lost or stolen ID or driver’s license to South African Police Services (SAPS) immediately.

 DON’T:

  • Carry unnecessary personal information in your wallet or purse.
  • Disclose personal information such as passwords and PINs when asked to do so by anyone via telephone, fax or even email.
  • Write down PINs and passwords and or use obvious choices like birth dates and first names.
  • Use any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) as a password, user ID or personal identification number (PIN).
  • Use Internet cafes or unsecured terminals (hotels, conference centres, etc.) to do your banking 

READ MORE: How to identify an investment scam

Do banks protect you and your money? 

According to Mewalall, banks deploy robust risk mitigation strategies to prevent fraud. He says these strategies are continually evolving to make it more difficult for criminals to use technology to hack systems to access data. For this reason, criminals often use social engineering (manipulation) tactics to bypass traditional defence perimeters to commit fraud.

If you have been a victim of fraud, Mewalall advises you to report it to SAPS immediately and request a case number. The case number will be handy when you report the crime to your bank.

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