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​​​​​​Biggest Money Scams to Watch out for

5 September 2018

According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), South Africa has the third highest number of cyber-crime victims in the world. Cyber-crime results in a loss of about R2.2 billion each year.

If you have access to the internet, a smartphone, bank cards or a car, chances are you will be a target of a scam – and the more advanced the technology, it seems, the more imaginative the con gets. This means that, every time you log on to your smartphone or computer, or open an email, you are at risk of being exposed to cyber-crime.

As a consumer, it is important that you remain aware of the most common scams, to protect yourself from them. In the past, they were easy to identify – now, however, the approach is so sophisticated that it can be difficult to spot a potential scam. From travel bookings to social media competitions, these are some of the scams all South Africans should be wary of:

Travel Scams

Travel agents and travellers alike can easily get duped into paying deposits for bookings into the wrong account, via email or other means. The risk especially increases when you're travelling to a country you don't know, and become dependent on travel agents and other tourist services to organise your holiday.

In one incident, a travel agent fell victim to a scam group while making a booking for clients in the DRC. She was making payment to the hotel when she received an email saying that the hotel's banking details had changed. After making the payment it became clear that it never went to the hotel.

WhatsApp Scams

A popular scam at the moment is conducted by sharing fake discounts, free or cheap flights or competitions to entice users to click on a link to claim the discount or enter the competition. The link often looks like a legitimate and well-known brand’s website, making it seem trustworthy. The message then gets shared across the platform from friend to friend, but clicking on it will install malware onto your device that can access your personal and banking details. Do not click on these links; simply delete such messages from your phone. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

SARS Tax Refund Phishing Scam

The SARS tax refund scam tends to be prevalent during the tax season. Members of the public are randomly emailed with false, spoofed emails made to look as if these emails were sent from SARS, but are in fact fraudulent emails aimed at enticing unsuspecting taxpayers to part with personal information, such as bank account details. This information is then used to access taxpayers' bank accounts and steal money. While this scam used to be easily identifiable, it has now become more sophisticated, which can make it difficult to detect.

SARS has these guidelines to make sure taxpayers do not get caught by a scam:

  • Do not open or respond to emails from unknown sources
  • Beware of emails that ask for personal, tax, banking and eFiling details
  • SARS will not request banking details through the phone, email or websites
  • Beware of false SMSs
  • Taxpayers will never be sent hyperlinks to other sites, even those of banks, and the SARS site does not have any links to any banks

Cryptocurrency Scam

Cryptocurrency is a playground for daring investors, but you must be informed before venturing in. There’s a myriad of websites offering a platform to buy and sell cryptocurrency for high returns. However, not all of them are legitimate and many South Africans have fallen victim to these fake websites. Before investing, you must check for proof of endorsements and involvement from reputable figures to determine if the project is headed up by a legitimate team.

Online Shopping Scams

Scammers often sell products on popular websites or social media platforms. Buyers are then asked to pay the deposit to secure the product and to pay the balance on delivery. Following payment of the deposit, the seller can no longer be reached and has made off with the buyer’s money. Do not buy products online unless they are from a verified seller and receipt of the goods is guaranteed. The other method of scamming involves emailing or SMSing a fake proof of payment to the seller. The scammer will also typically display a great sense of urgency and try to collect and leave with the goods as soon as possible, pretending to be in a great rush or saying that he or she is only in town for one day so the deal has to happen immediately or not at all. The best way to ensure that money has really been paid into your account is to phone your bank or to check your internet banking statement.

Personal Loan Scam

The victim is most often contacted via email or SMS and offered, for example, a loan. Once the victim has paid the fee, the fraudster either disappears or continues to promise more money in the near future in exchange for further upfront fees. The victim is then left having been robbed of their hard-earned money, and having given fraudsters access to their banking details. In 2017, scammers used the same approach with fake Sanlam email addresses, with fake offers of up to R1m at a fixed interest rate of 2.5% per annum over and above other personal and business loans. Sanlam does not offer home loans, and these offers were not legitimate.

Sanlam’s loan offer is managed through Sanlam Personal Loans (Pty) Ltd, a registered credit provider. We will never ask consumers for an upfront payment in an application or to issue a loan.

Sanlam offers the following checklist to avoid falling into a scam trap:

  • Sanlam will never ask a client for any upfront payment to process a loan application.
  • Spelling and linguistic errors in communication with clients may indicate a scam invitation.
  • Some scams may even use the names of actual employees of the brand and have people who answer their telephones.
  • If people are uncertain about whether or not a loan invitation is legitimate, they can verify the invitation by calling the Sanlam Personal Loans call centre at 0861 44 00 44 or visit the Sanlam website.

Don’t Get Scammed

It’s safe to assume that if anyone is asking for your bank or personal information, you’re being taken for a ride. Always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you are asked at any point for any personal information, follow it up with a phone call to the organisation that the email, letter or phone call purports to be from, to verify that it is legitimate.

How to Spot a Scam:

  • Receiving calls from fishy salesmen to dodgy phone calls
  • If they ask for your personal information and money
  • When the sender’s email address looks suspicious
  • If you didn’t enter the competition you’ve won
Sanlam Life Insurance is a licensed financial service provider.
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