By Mumtaz Saley
Every year millions of people around the world find themselves scammed out of hard-earned money. In South Africa, there has been an alarming rise in such incidents especially amongst older people - so what can be done to avoid this?
How you may be approached?
Scammers know who their targets are and they do their homework thoroughly. They usually contact you via phone call and/or email. They may even know your ID number in some instances.
However, over recent months reports show they may even be able to duplicate a popular shopping or banking site.
Who are their main targets?
They look for people who are vulnerable such as older people, young females and young adults who have just started earning a monthly income.
How to spot a scam?
1. Offers that come out the blue, sometimes it’s companies asking you to buy an item as a ‘too good to be true’ or ‘once in a lifetime’ deal. Also, be wary of the line ‘you have won a voucher’.
2. The bank will never ask you to verify your pin on a phone call or an email, if there is an issue, your bank will ask you to come in or use the banking app. Never give up your pin or any card details.
3. Another common ploy is text messages saying you owe a company money and need to call them. Debt collectors will first email, post you a statement and lastly, will they try to call and SMS you. Always google the company before making a payment or divulging any personal information.
As a general rule if something is too good to be true, rather let it go for your own safety.
How to protect your self
1. A year ago my bank card was cloned and airline tickets were purchased. I can not stress enough the importance of checking bank statements daily. The moment you suspect your card was cloned, or there are some strange transactions taking place, contact your banks' fraud department immediately and stop your card.
If your card was cloned from an ATM and money was taken out, follow the above procedure, most of the time the money is reversed into your account.
2. If you are called and offered an amazing product, simply don’t agree even if the company is legit. Always ask for the information to be emailed to you so you can read the fine print.
3. When shopping online, check if the store has a secured site (usually a small padlock icon will appear on the top where the website address is).
4. Don’t open any emails that you are unsure of, sometimes an email may state that it’s from a bank, yet the email address is non-related so check the email address it was sent from.
5. Don’t ever use free WiFi at malls or anywhere to do banking, pay bills or shop. Your phone can be an open target.
6. If you have won a voucher, most of the time it will be emailed to you or available via the stores' app. Always ask them to call you back and contact the companies head office to find out if it’s legit. Also, remember you can’t win anything if you didn’t enter.
7. Links that are shared over WhatsApp stating that you could win air tickets or vouchers are most times filled with spyware viruses, never click those links. If you’re interested to know more, rather google the brand or company and check out their direct website if they are indeed running any competitions or specials.
8. What happens if you’ve bought an item from someone over Whatsapp or social media & you’ve been scammed out of money? Firstly remember to always do an eft when buying from people who advertise online. Secondly, if you have been scammed, contact your banks' fraud department and the bank you have transferred money to and notifying them, after that you may proceed to the police station to open up a case of fraud. If the money did not go through, it will be reversed. If it has, there is seldom a chance of you getting your money back but do follow protocol nonetheless as it may save someone else later on.
When purchasing online as well it’s very difficult to spot a fake account. Once again, a few years back we got scammed buying a toy online from a company that seemingly had a great social media reputation. The company was so professional that they invoiced us. It was only after I physically went to the companies address did I find out that the company does not exist. As fraud is becoming a major issue most reputable companies have now introduced COD options. As I said, always look out for the secured icon on websites to ensure they are legit.
Finally, I urge everyone to start educating older people, especially those who aren’t very tech-savvy. Take that moment so that it may save them thousands in the future.
Important numbers to always keep saved on your phone:
Standard Bank fraud line: 0800 020 600
ABSA fraud line: 0860 557 557
Nedbank fraud line: 0860 555 111
Capitec fraud line: 0860 10 20 430