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No con do! — here’s how to spot the scam red flags and stay safe

No con do!  — here’s how to spot the scam red flags and stay safe

Criminals are constantly devising new ways of defrauding consumers, so arm yourself with these tips to avoid becoming a victim.

In an environment in which many people are battling to cope financially, scams have increased exponentially. To mark Global Money Week from 18 to 24 March, the Financial Planning Institute, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and the South African Banking Risk Information Centre hosted an educational webinar on the different scams you should be aware of. They include:


This could be a replica of the South African Revenue Service or a banking website. If you hover over the bank brand, you will see that the link does not match the actual bank website or SARS.

“If you see a padlock on the URL of the website, that is a sign that you are transacting on a secure site. If there is no padlock, rather stay away,” says Ntshiki Maluleka, digital banking crime manager at the South African Banking Risk Information Centre.

Courier services

As more consumers order online and receive parcels through couriers, criminals are latching on by sending emails with a link to pay a “clearing tax”.

Of course, the site you are directed to is a fraudulent site and once you enter your card details for the payment, you have given the fraudsters full access to your bank account.

Spoof mails

Hackers get into your email or social media accounts and peruse your emails and files, looking for contacts you deal with regularly or for financial services. They then use your information to impersonate you and send requests for large transfers of money.

“These requests could target people like your company’s payroll officer or your accountant with messages that your bank account details have changed.

“If someone sends you a mail saying their bank account details have changed, pick up the phone and confirm that they sent the email,” Maluleka says.

He warns that once funds are transferred into fraudulent accounts, the money trail starts to move quite quickly.

“Syndicates are well organised and it takes just a few seconds before they start dispersing that money and transferring it to various different accounts, or making fraudulent withdrawals.”

Dating and romance scams

Lyndwill Clarke, head of consumer education at the FSCA, says he recently came across a scam in which a woman lost more than R1-million after she fell victim to someone romancing her over the internet.

In this age of online dating, it is becoming more common that men who claim to be from other countries romance women and then say they need money for a plane ticket to visit. Once you pay the money, they have an excuse for why they can’t make it this time.

The amounts increase and the reasons may vary from money for a plane ticket to needing money for a medical bill.

If the person has sent you a photo of themselves, do a reverse image search. If the image is associated with another name or the details don’t match up, that is a red flag.

To do a reverse image search, go to Google and click on “search image” to the right of the search bar. Then either upload or paste an image link and hit enter.

Travel scams

It has become more common to simply log on to a website to book your accommodation.

“I’ve got friends that actually booked through what they thought was the website and then they arrived in Durban for their holiday only to find an empty plot of land,” Clarke says.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Not so fast! Watch out for these psychological techniques used by scammers — and how to protect yourself

He recommends that you always book tours through reputable agencies. Red flags include prices that are too good to be true or payments that have to be made to personal bank accounts.

Use Google Maps to confirm the property’s address and to compare the photos used to advertise the property.

Investment scams

These scams are often flagged with short time limits within which you have to hand over money.

“No one can guarantee your return on an investment,” Clarke points out.

You should also be wary if you are approached by a person who wants to sell you a financial product but they cannot provide you with their FSCA registration number or the relevant qualifications that authorised them to sell you those products.

You can double check that a company is registered with the FSCA by calling the FSCA on 012 428 8000 or 0800 20 37 22 and checking the financial service provider (FSP) number from your policy document. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


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