- Fraud tends to peak during the festive season, says a forensics expert.
- It is vital to increase awareness of fraud tactics and to know which warning signs to look for.
- Fraudsters can create high quality websites that offer "amazing" packages.
The festive holiday season is no reason to lower your guard, because you still run the risk of becoming a victim of fraud. In fact, fraud tends to peak during this time of year, according to Christo Snyman, a director at Mazars in South Africa and president of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators' Western Cape Chapter.
Snyman says consumers are particularly vulnerable to financial losses due to fraud during the December holidays.
"This is why it is vital that we all take the time to increase our awareness of fraud tactics and to know which warning signs to look for," says Snyman.
He has compiled a list of the most common scams to look out for this holiday.
The holiday scam
Fraudsters often advertise affordable holiday accommodation and packages online, offering limited space on almost sold out or almost fully booked reservations. They will encourage consumers to call or email them, and will often send beautiful pictures of the supposed accommodations to their potential victim.
The targeted person will then be encouraged to make a 50% deposit to secure a place, unaware that a lot of other people have also paid a deposit for the same fake package.
"Be wary of these criminals and plan your holidays with reputable service providers. If you do fall victim to a scam like this, report it to the nearest police station. It may be near-impossible to recover your money, but reporting them will assist others from falling prey to the same scam," suggests Snyman.
Fake travel agencies
Fraudsters can create high-quality websites that offer "amazing" packages. For these deals, they often take on-the-spot payments and then close the site when they feel they have made enough money. More often than not, they will establish another site and start over again.
Snyman suggests, as a precaution, to make sure that the travel agency you use is a member of the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA) or the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Card swapping can occur when criminals distract you with a seemingly credible reason while you enter your PIN. They can then swap your card to access your cash from another ATM while you are confused, wondering what happened to your card.
Card skimming can happen at an ATM that has been tampered with. A secondary card reader and camera are placed on the ATM and criminals gain access to your information and clone your card. This type of scam can also happen at other points-of-sale. Do not ever let your card out of your sight.
Inspect any ATM for foreign objects before you use it, and stay away from ATMs that are in dark, quiet places. If you have been defrauded, contact your bank immediately to stop your card.
Contactless bank cards
If you enable this function on your card, make sure it never leaves your sight. If you do choose to enable this function on your card, remember to always keep your card in-hand and that you always tap the point-of-sale device yourself.
Also make sure that you register for your bank's notification service to raise an early alert if and when an unauthorised transaction is processed on your account.
* Compiled by Carin Smith