Don’t be a victim – stay alert

2011-02-12 10:17

Fraudsters do not take a break, so consumers should always be alert when making transactions on their bank accounts. This helps to minimise the risk of falling victim to ATM fraud, phishing scams and other fraudulent activities.

The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) advises bank account holders not to divulge confidential information to family members or bank staff.

Information that needs to remain ­confidential includes personal identification numbers (PINs) and profile numbers used to conduct transactions over the internet, says OBS spokesperson Uzi ­Gugushe.

She says consumers should check their statements on a regular basis and that the sooner alleged victims detect a fraudulent transaction, the easier it will be for them to minimise losses from their bank ­accounts.

She says that her office, which investigates disputes resulting from fraudulent or unauthorised transactions on individual accounts, also investigates cases of “phantom withdrawal”.

Such complaints involve account holders reporting unauthorised ATM withdrawals from their accounts.

“The account holder will deny ever ­losing possession of his or her ATM card. They also deny sharing the PIN with ­anyone,” she says.

Complainants need to provide bank statements and clearly identify disputed withdrawals.

Taking into account the information provided, the OBS makes a finding on a balance of probabilities as to whether or not the bank was in any way responsible for the fraudulent withdrawals, says Gugushe.

She advises alleged victims to first lodge their disputes with the banks in question.

Chris Vrey, managing executive for digital channels at Absa, says partnering with your financial institution and heeding advice and guidance by the bank can also help to minimise falling victim, ­especially to phishing scams.

Phishing happens when criminals fraudulently intercept and obtain an ­account holder’s internet banking login details in order to steal funds from their bank account.

Perpetrators often target vulnerable members of the public and promise to aid them in setting up legitimate bank accounts or to update their details.

They then use the information to defraud ­the unsuspecting clients.

Consumers using internet banking should be wary of links or attachments in emails that request them to click and update any information, he says.

Other warning signs include generic emails addressing a customer as “Dear Customer”.

Banks usually address correspondence to you with your full names.

Internet bankers should avoid using internet cafes because they can ­never tell what programmes have been installed on the computers.

Chemory Fick, group marketing manager for Vibrant Media and Decision Makers Database, says that consumers should always follow their instincts when they are uncertain about using ­internet or ATM services.

Her company specialises in email marketing, but she stresses that it does not sell email addresses but rather offers a full-service email marketing solution.

Fick says if a user is concerned that there might be something suspicious when they log on to the internet, they need to call their respective financial ­institutions.

She says scammers normally use overseas addresses when fishing for victims.

“A legitimate sender will be easily reachable and more than happy to assist you,” she says.

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