Beware of fraudsters this festive season

Johannesburg- It’s the holiday season and for many of us that means sun, shopping, and seeing friends, but there’s a more sinister side to the summer holidays with scammers becoming more active.

According to specialist personal loans provider, DirectAxis, South Africa is one of the most targeted countries in the world when it comes to financial crimes.

“The best way to avoid being scammed is to be constantly vigilant and to never think that it can’t happen to you,” says Rialivhuwa Mudau, head of legal, risk, and compliance at DirectAxis.

“Fraudsters target everyone and over the festive period, 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 may not be as alert as they are normally.”

Scams are presented in many different ways, from simple appeals for money to sophisticated schemes where they imitate recognizable brands. There have even been cases of fraudsters posing as friends on social media. What they all have in common is trying to trick you into paying money or to part with your personal details so they can steal your identity.

Common scams include:

Upfront fees

These scams ask you to pay a fee in order to get a beneficial transaction underway. Typically, these could be an administration fee for a loan, to release the funds from a lottery win or a transfer fee for an inheritance.

Some are easier to spot than others. If you’ve not bought a lottery ticket or don’t know the relative that’s left you an inheritance, it’s a scam. If it’s a loan that’s offered and the amount is 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 your personal information such as your ID, passport information, driver’s license, e-mail account details, or payslip. Here’s an example of a personal loan offer scam attempting to collect personal data.

Remote access to your personal or banking information

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

As with most other scams, there are variations on 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 prompted to log into your online banking profile. Then you’ll get one-time pins (OTPs) on your phone to confirm transactions you haven’t made. The scammer will ask you 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 accessing your information.

Here are DirectAxis’ tips on how to protect yourself:

  • Don’t share passwords or PINs 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 websites and social pages such as padlocks and verification ticks/ marks.
  • Be suspicious of e-mails or social media 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 may indicate someone is using your personal information fraudulently.

If you’re suspicious or become a victim of a scam, report the scam immediately.

The information you provide may lead to the scammers being prosecuted or at least the scam being shut down.

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