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Don’t fall prey to deals that seem too good to be true, Banking Ombud warns consumers

Published Nov 23, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Over the past few years, South Africans have been able to take advantage of the discounts offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday on November 26 and 29.

But the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS), Reana Steyn, has warned consumers about the dangers and various scams for Black November that they could fall victim to, should they let down their guard.

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The OBS urged shoppers to be on the lookout for suspicious activities and/or transactions on their accounts as there is an expectation of higher volumes of phishing, vishing and ATM scams.

Consumers should regularly go through their account statements to identify and immediately report any suspicious entries that they flag as suspicious.

“Desktop research conducted by the OBS has shown that social media platforms, online marketplaces and unsecure websites are being used by criminals to execute a scam where an unsuspecting customer is tricked into paying in advance for goods or services that they will never receive,” said Steyn.

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Consumers should take their time to research the legitimacy and secureness of the merchants and/or the websites before making a purchase, she said.

Due to the growing popularity of e-commerce, Steyn said, the OBS has seen an increase of 31.34% in internet banking fraud related cases in 2021.

The majority of the people who fall victim to internet banking fraud are those who clicked on unsolicited links which they believed were from their banks.

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“Phishing emails are becoming a common way to scam victims. The victim typically receives an email that is supposedly from their bank. The email directs the victim to a proxy site to resolve an issue with their account.

“Once the victim enters their personal details into the site, the fraudsters have access to all the information that they need to commit identity fraud,” says Steyn.

“Only after the fraud is committed do they discover that the link that they clicked on was fraudulent,” said Steyn.

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Other unsuspecting victims were vished into giving away this sensitive information over the phone as they believed that the person who called them was from the bank.

“This is a very sophisticated scheme as the fraudster poses as a bank representative who is helping the consumer resolve an issue on their account – usually an urgent matter to allegedly prevent fraud on their account.

“Only once the fraud has been committed does the consumer find out that they were being tricked into giving away personal information,” says Steyn.

She added that, subject to final checks, there was a decrease in the number of ATM fraud (which dropped by 15.8%), and credit card related fraud complaints (which dropped by 13.28%) when compared with 2020.

Steyn cautioned that the apparent decrease in card related fraud cases received by her office should not be seen as a decision by fraudsters to abandon this type of fraud.

She advised that events like Black November, as well as the festive season and holidays, have previously proven to be fertile breeding grounds for fraudsters to take advantage of consumers who let their guard down.

“Consumers should not fall victim to deals that seem too good to be true,” said Steyn.

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