Protect yourself from Covid-19 fraudsters

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Protect yourself from fraudsters
Protect yourself from fraudsters

In the weeks since the Covid-19 coronavirus national lockdown began, it seems fraudsters have been working overtime trying to catch their next victim off guard. I have personally received two emails and one text message that were completely bogus but could have easily passed as legitimate if I had not been on high alert.

We are all tired, feeling uncertain and experiencing some level of anxiety due to the Covid-19 crisis, creating the perfect condition for fraudsters to pounce.

Fraudsters prey on your curiosity and want to catch you off guard when you are not as vigilant as you would be under normal circumstances
Mapalo Makhu

Fraudsters prey on your curiosity and want to catch you off guard when you are not as vigilant as you would be under normal circumstances.

You have probably received an email, text, phone call or even a home visit from someone purporting to be from a financial institution, government department or a business dealing with a Covid-19-related issue. All this is done to swindle you out of your money and/or personal data, which can lead to identity theft.

There are a few scams doing the rounds at the moment.

CLAIM A DEBT RELIEF REWARD/CLAIM FROM UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FUND

Unfortunately, Covid-19 will have a negative impact on people’s incomes. This makes a lot of people susceptible to scammers who pretend to want to help out with financial relief. Always be vigilant for emails, texts and calls that claim to want to “help” you during this time.

In fact, most financial service providers (FSPs) require you to communicate with them about your situation. Since the outbreak, most, if not all, FSPs have urged their clients to call them to work out tailor-made solutions to their situation.

Therefore, be wary of people who easily offer you a helping hand.

DONATE TO COVID-19 RELIEF

As a compassionate human being, you feel the need to make a difference. but you can easily be scammed by ruthless fraudsters who are taking advantage of the crisis by asking you to donate to a “worthy cause”. This is why you should interrogate and double-check every source.

Rather donate or give gifts to your extended family or to a registered nonprofit organisation (NPO). It is also good to note that donations to registered NPOs that comply with section 18A of the Income Tax Act can be tax deductible.

Download and scrutinise your bank statement.

I received an email pretending to be from one of the big five banks. Mind you, I do not bank with this bank. In this email, the colours of the bank were prominent, but the logo was missing. The email address was slightly suspicious, but not at first glance. The most evident red flag was the attachment. Unlike a legitimate email from a bank, the attachment was a link instead of a PDF.

This is how phishing works. With just one click, fraudsters are able to access sensitive information such as your passwords, credit card information and other personal details.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMS:

  • Be vigilant: Do your research. Only purchase merchandise or services from websites that are reputable and have testimonials. Even if you see an advert on social media or on the internet, it does not mean the source is legitimate. Question and research everything… Trust me, I have been a victim of an online shopping scam because I was not vigilant.
  • Listen to your gut: If, for whatever reason, you feel unsure about whether you should click on the link or put in your credit card details, do not do it. Instead, go back and do your research. All financial service providers need to make their FSP licences available in all communication with their clients. You can validate this on the Financial Sector Conduct Authority website. Trust your gut.
  • Change your password every three months: Although a straightforward password such as your name or birth date is easier to remember, it is not advisable to use this. Rather use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and signs for your password. Also remember to change your password at least every three months. Do not save important passwords such as your bank or payment gateways on your phone or laptop. If you are like me and you worry that you will forget your passwords every time your change them, write them in a notebook that you keep in a safe place in your home; type them on a Note or Word document on your laptop; or, if you like a more tech-savvy solution, download a password keeper app (but be sure to also keep that password secure).

WHAT IS THE RECOURSE IF YOU HAVE BEEN SCAMMED:

  • Cancel your cheque or credit cards immediately on your internet banking platform.
  • Call your bank to notify it of any fraudulent or suspicious activities on your accounts.
  • In the event of identity theft, you will need to report the incident to the police and provide an affidavit. You will take or forward the affidavit to your bank and credit providers to prevent money being transferred from your account.

Fraudsters are taking advantage of this global health crisis, so be alert and vigilant when dealing with any suspicious calls, texts and emails. Even if you feel like you are overreacting, trust your gut. Rather be safe than sorry.


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