Banking body warns of coronavirus scams targeting panicked public

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre has warned South Africans that panic over the novel coronavirus is the new favourite tool of cyber-criminals in their search for valuable banking information.

The wave of "panic buying" of toilet paper, sanitary products and hand sanitisers on Monday at various retail centres across the country was a prime example of the impact the arrival of the coronavirus to South Africa has had on consumer behaviour.

South Africa has 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the latest updates from government by Tuesday morning.

SABRIC said coronavirus scams were exploiting people's concerns for their health and safety, tricking them using social engineering.

Acting CEO Susan Potgieter warned in a statement that spoofed emails often looked convincingly legitimate and, in the fog of panic, clients could easily click on a risky link where they would otherwise think twice.

"Although some spoofed emails can be difficult to identify, we urge bank clients to think twice before clicking on any link, even if an email looks legitimate. Any suspicious emails should not be opened and are best deleted," said Potgieter.

The statement said new scams capitalising on coronavirus anxieties included spoofed emails offering products such as masks, or fake offerings of vaccines, leading to phishing websites.

"These emails come from seemingly realistic and reputable companies which manipulate people into clicking on links. Some of these websites prompt the user for personal information which ending up in the hands of cyber-criminals," the statement said.

SABRIC warned that once criminals had enough confidential information about a victim’s bank account, they could impersonate the victim and conduct transactions using the correct credentials but without authority.

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