EasyPay, but easy steal

2011-09-03 00:00

CREDIT card fraudsters are targeting South Africa’s largest online bill payment site EasyPay to steal money out of unwitting customers’ bank accounts.

Several people have fallen prey to a scam where stolen credit card details are used to make transactions on EasyPay which is used daily by tens of thousands South Africans to buy airtime and electricity and pay TV licences, traffic fines and municipal bills.

EasyPay says it is now introducing new technology to independently secure its transactions.

Marisa Louw, a public relations expert from Johannesburg, had her entire bank account emptied out last week through transactions on EasyPay, even though she had never done a transaction on the website.

“I was driving to a meeting when an SMS came through from FNB that R2 000 was reserved for easypay.co.za. A short while later another SMS came through for R750. I then postponed my meeting and drove straight to the FNB branch in Randburg. All the way as I was driving the messages kept coming through: R250, R1 000, R500 …” she said.

She said her bank immediately cancelled her card. “I was told that this happens daily with easypay.co.za.”

Joyrene Kramer, a picture editor at Media24 in Johannesburg, lost R3 250 in the same way.

Five other victims who were defrauded in the same way complained on the site hellopeter.com in the past two months.

One, in Cape Town, discovered R26 000 was stolen from his credit card account. Another victim from Johannesburg was fleeced of R10 000 through 15 transactions. Like Louw, he had never done any transactions on EasyPay before. Another victim lost R750 through three transactions. Louw lost R2 700.

Justine Teiwes, spokesperson for FNB’s card division, said the bank has “experienced only a handful of complaints” and refunded Louw’s stolen money.

It is not clear whether the other cases were on cards issued by FNB or other banks.

IN July alone, the EasyPay website processed 96 451 transactions with a value of R94,3 million, according to the CEO of its holding company, Dr Serge Belamant.

Belamant said that EasyPay, as a merchant, was not responsible for authorising payments. “If the bank that issued the card approves the transaction, we have no legal right to deny that transaction. We are the party in the middle between you, the transactor, and the bank.”

He said EasyPay would shortly be introducing new technology to secure transactions independently.

Paul Mathias, head of Absa’s fraud risk management unit, said this type of fraud is common internationally and locally. “It is known as card-not-present fraud, and occurs when fraudsters use stolen card credentials, obtained through card skimming and other means, to effect transactions online,” he said.

Jason O’Reilly, security practice manager for the security software manufacturer Symantec, said consumers will be vulnerable until banks make it more difficult to use stolen card information. Banks meanwhile urge customers to never let their cards out of their sight to reduce the chances of their being skimmed.

The SA Banking Risk Information Centre said banking losses due to counterfeit card fraud had, from November 2010, decreased by 32%, from R208,7 million to R141,4 million,

• Never let the card out of your sight when making payments

• Report any suspicious behaviour immediately to your bank

• Never accept help from anyone at an ATM

• Familiarise yourself with your bank’s ATM, so that you are able to notice any irregular objects attached to it

• Immediately report any foreign objects on an ATM or suspicious people loitering at the ATM to your bank.

• Never use an ATM that is tampered with or visibly damaged

• Always be conscious of your surroundings when transacting

• Sign up for SMS notification, which notifies you by SMS every time a transaction is made on your card or bank account.

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