online scam police

How to protect your money as fraud spirals in SA

South African consumers have been warned to be vigilant against rising fraud and identity theft which has risen by 300% according to the SAFPS.

online scam police

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has warned consumers to be vigilant against rampant fraud, especially impersonations, which have increased by more than 300% as desperate criminals seek to fleece their victims in a tough economic climate. 

SAFPS CEO Manie Van Schalkwyk said recent data collected by the organisation revealed that fraudsters were expanding their criminal activities across most provinces in the country.

“We are really reaching a critical point when it comes to the economy and the extreme measures that criminals will use to perpetrate fraud,” Van Schalkwyk said. 

“The 2020 statistics collected by the SAFPS, indicate that there are significant increases in key areas and that there is a long road ahead to address this challenge.”

Van Schalkwyk said fraud had increased by 161% in the Eastern Cape and by 120% in Gauteng.

“There were increases in every province with the exception of Limpopo,” Van Schalkwyk said.

Van Schalkwyk said many employees were now working from home due to the disruption of the Covid-19 lockdown.

A massive playing field

“The problem with this is that employees are now conducting their work, and in some cases sending sensitive information, across servers that do not have the same level of security as the servers at their normal place of business,” he said.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driven by data and cyber criminals are conducting targeted attacks on servers to steal valuable data and use it to commit fraud. We saw this in the Experian and Absa data breaches last year. The fact that there is a significant increase in victim listings could be because of an increase in data breaches,” says Van Schalkwyk.

Impersonations are up

Perhaps the most concerning statistic coming out of the recent SAFPS report was that impersonation fraud had increased by 337%, Van Schalkwyk said.

“This is extremely concerning. Impersonation fraud is the act of a criminal impersonating another person by stealing their identity and then opening accounts in their name. The fraudster has details of the victim and trying to take over account,” he said.

“The credit provider will ask the questions normally asked of the account holder. Because of data breaches, this information is available to the fraudster making it easier to take over the account.  They then take over the account and leave the victim with massive amounts of debt that they never took out in the first place,” Van Schalkwyk said. However, he added that technology had also improved significantly, making it very easy to make a fake application appear legitimate.

This makes it important as consumers to protect your money.

Important steps to take to protect your money and personal data

SAFPS’ offers consumers a free service to protect against identity fraud. Consumers apply for this service and the SAFPS alerts its business members to take additional care when dealing with the consumer’s personal information.

The SAFPS also assists applicants to prevent fraud that is a result of identity theft and impersonation.

“We need to be proactive when it comes to managing our identities and the opportunities that are presented to fraudsters. It is imperative that consumers, and companies, protect themselves against fraud, and more and more we see the use of biometric data as the solution for the future” Van Schalkwyk said.

READ: How to avoid getting scammed on your home loan