I feel like I have been mugged – the physicality of the trauma is like being punched in the chest by world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua.
But no – my person was not attacked or assaulted in any way. I was scammed. A so-called vishing scam.
It sounds stupid, I know. It’s so commonplace and not life threatening in the least, but the humiliation is overwhelming.
Apart from the financial loss, which is devastating, I cannot believe I was such a *#$@ing idiot to fall for it.
I've read about various scams – I've even written about them – so I really should have been aware of what was going on.
I know the rules – never reveal account details, password, PIN, or one-time PIN (OTP) over the phone. I know all this, and yet I helped these guys empty almost every rand and cent from my bank account.
Some of them are good – very good – at what they do. But still, I can’t stop asking myself how I could have been so stupid.
It’s easy to see it was a scam after the event. But at the time, they managed to convince me they were saving me rather than stealing from me.
They hit me when I was already down, but that’s another story and I can’t use it as an excuse. The bottom line is – I helped these people empty all my hard-earned cash out of my account and I’m left broke and feeling like a fool.
It’s hard to write about this, as I feel so ashamed, but I've decided to get over my ego and share the story in the hope that someone may read it and spot the scam before their account is emptied in the same way.
So, here’s my scam story so you know what to do when you get that call.
A woman phoned saying she was from my bank and said suspicious activity had been spotted on my account. She said another cellphone number had been added to my profile, and this was why nothing had showed up on my account.
She then asked some “security” questions, such as checking my ID number, full name and some basic card details. At this point, I even questioned her about why she needed a particular number. She said the only number the bank would never ask for is my PIN, and that I should never give that out. Fair enough, right?
She gave me her name (false of course) and a number for the fraud case she had opened. She sent an SMS to my phone that had my bank’s name on it. It read, “A fraud case has been lodged with case no: AB835145 and your card has been blocked. We will call you shortly to decline unauthorised online transactions and to order you a new card as well. We apologise for any inconvenience. For any enquiries, call the bank on 011 219 7040.” All very convincing.
I was then passed on to her “colleague” who was going to help me identify the various payment attempts the fraudsters had made on my account. He also gave me his name and quoted the fraud case number.
I spent the next 30 minutes or so on the phone to this seemingly charming, helpful man who in reality was in the process of conning me out of thousands of rands.
Read more | Scams to be aware of
He constantly assured me that nothing had been approved and that my account was safe as long as we worked together to ensure each attempted payment was declined correctly.
It was here I should have spotted the red flags – but he was very convincing and we were chatting about everything from Covid-19 in Gauteng to what these fraudsters were trying to buy with my money.
There were alleged payments to cellphone companies Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, US dollar payments to online trading platform binary.com, an online betting setup called betway.co.za, and even a large order from Mr D Food Delivery. Scamming must be hungry business.
He kept me on the phone as we went over the details of each payment he was about to message me for verification. And sure enough, I was constantly bombarded by SMSes. Each one came through with an OTP code that the man asked me to repeat so he could “ensure the payment was declined”. Massive red flag. And I missed it completely.
The horrible irony is that each SMS also came with the words: “Never share your OTP with anyone.” The man told me I must keep these messages as a record for the fraud case and I feel sick every time I look at them. Maybe that’s exactly what he wanted. Total humiliation. Well, he’s got it – as well as my money.
So, that’s my sad story. But there are many types of scams out there and this is just one of them. And there are many fraudsters, some highly skilled in their slimy line of business.
My one piece of advice in the aftermath of my defeat is, if in doubt, hang up and phone the bank yourself. Cut these slimeballs off before they con you too.
My hope is that you won’t be taken for a ride like I was and that you will spot those red flags and act on them.
I also hope, in the unlikely event they ever catch the con artists who beat me, Anthony Joshua will help me out with one of his infamous right hooks – right in the middle of their chests. This is the spot where my pain and shame still lie.