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Sanlam Warns Against Sophisticated Scams

23 July 2020

Many South Africans are finding themselves in dire financial straits and sophisticated criminals, all too aware of this, are ramping up their efforts to exploit people in the current economic climate.

Their fraudulent attempts are most often linked to fantastical ‘get rich quick’ schemes that lure participants with promises of low interest loans or high return investments. The moral of the story? Megan Govender, Head of Forensics Services at Sanlam, says that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Recently, a number of smart scams have been making waves. The Planet49 ‘COVID-19 relief promotion’ scheme supposedly supported local grocery chains, but actually harvested participants’ personal information (PI) to sell to third parties. Then there’s the WhatsApp gifting scam (previously named ‘stokvel’), which promised members great returns on initial investments of R200. And the recent Bitcoin scam leaked the PI of about 250 000 individuals from 20 countries.

The Journey of Your Personal Information

Govender says once your personal information is ‘out there’, it takes on a journey of its own. “As soon as criminals have your ID number, they’re in a position to ‘purchase’ your entire profile from the dark web, including your full name, credit record, where you live, the amount outstanding on your bond, your phone number and more.

“They can use that information in myriad ways from attempting to change your internet banking password or accessing credit in your name, to impersonating you to your insurer or investment company to retrieve your funds and benefits.”

Govender says Sanlam is concerned about recent incidents where fraudsters have used the Sanlam brand to mislead consumers to contribute money to an ‘investment’ or pay to apply for a ‘personal loan’. He warns that the bank accounts used for the payments are in no way affiliated with Sanlam, and once the scammers get their money, they cut all contact with the victims.

Top tips to avoid a scam:

  • Reputable financial institutions will not contact you out of the blue using a generic email (in other words, one that is not particularly addressed to you) and then ask for personal information
  • Look out for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in emails or inconsistent fonts, although criminals are even starting to improve their language and syntax
  • Triple check the actual email address to ensure it’s legitimate. This is done by clicking “respond to” and then verifying the “TO” address (but not actually sending the email). Look out for small and large deviations from the normal company email address format. The part after the “@” sign must be exactly like the web address of the business who is reaching out to you.
  • Be VERY wary of any request for an advanced payment or changes in beneficiary details
  • Don’t trust ‘get rich quick’ promises – like the WhatsApp gifting scam. Any kind of guaranteed high or quick return should trigger alarm bells.
  • Do not give personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue
  • Always Use strong (long) passwords and if you can, rather use multifactor authentication
  • Protect your webmail such as Gmail or personal email accounts with multifactor authentication whenever it is available. Fraudsters often use weak passwords on personal email accounts to access emails from your financial institution and intercept information that they can use in ‘follow-up’ emails that will look as if it comes from your financial service provider.
  • If you think it’s a scam, report it to the police and the business you suspect is being impersonated

If you’re a Sanlam client, Govender asks you to note that:

  • Sanlam will never ask you for an upfront payment or administrative fee to process a loan application
  • The actual Sanlam email address will end with “@sanlam.co.za”
  • Sanlam communication will be directed at you, greeting you by name and/or surname
  • Sanlam communication should not have any spelling or linguistic errors – these may be indicators of a scam
  • Some scams may use Sanlam’s actual employees’ names – remember, criminals are sophisticated. If you’re unsure whether something is legitimate, you can verify the invitation by calling the Sanlam Personal Loans Call Centre at +27 861 44 00 44 or visit our Personal Loans web page.
  • Sanlam’s WhatsApp facility uses the following numbers only: +27 860 726 526 for a Sanlam registration and +27 861 235 433 for a Sanlam Sky registration

Govender concludes, “We are aware that clients in the broader financial services industry are being targeted by scammers and, from a Sanlam perspective, we are extremely concerned about the increase in scams involving our brand. We urge South Africans to be hyperaware and to educate themselves on the latest, sophisticated criminal techniques. Our forensics services unit is working closely with the South African Police Services in their investigations of these scams.

“Don’t hesitate to alert us about any offer which concerns you by calling our Client Care Centre on +27 860 726 526 or speak to a trusted financial planner.”

Sanlam is committed to the highest standards of business integrity, ethical values and governance.

That is why we encourage our staff, clients and stakeholders to report unethical or corrupt behaviour.

Sanlam Life Insurance is a licensed financial service provider.
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