Stokvel members urged to be vigilant over festive season as criminals ready to strike

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The South African Banking Risk Information Centre has warned members of stokvel social clubs to be extra cautious over the festive season when members look forward to cash in on their hard-earned savings.  

On Thursday, the financial crime information centre held a media briefing on its festive season campaign where it shared some of the tactics criminals would most likely be using to defraud people. 

Sabric acting CEO, Susan Potgieter, advised members of stokvels to be extra vigilant and not to carry large amounts of cash. She also advised stokvel members to try and move away from cash-based clubs to electronic ones with bank accounts. Consumers should be selective about the information they share and only do it on a "need-to-know" basis. 

"This is why we are adding the hashtag label #NotSaying to all our messaging, to remind people to not just share any personal information without careful consideration when prompted to do so," Potgieter said. 

Confidential information includes usernames, passwords, OTPs (One Time Pins), PINs and card security codes.

Sabric said it had noticed an increase in vishing incidents - where criminals call customers pretending to be from banks. The scammers then use social engineering tactics to trick or coerce customers into disclosing confidential information. 

Consumers were also advised to not lose sight of their identity documents, driver's licenses, passports, addresses because this information can easily make them vulnerable to the crime. 

Bank clients, meanwhile, were cautioned to be vigilant when they withdraw cash from ATMs to use for holidays. According to Sabric, perpetrators continue to clone cards and interfere with customers who are transacting. 

Consumers have been urged not to accept assistance from any strangers, even if they look well-dressed or seem legitimate. Potgieter said criminals often spend their time around ATMs preying on customers who look panicky and offer their assistance before exploiting trust.

Sabric says it has noted scammers using deceitful tactics like telling people that the ATM needs to be programmed or serviced after they have inserted their cards. 

Watch out for last-minute holiday bookings 

Potgieter said customers should also be careful when making payments for accommodation. Here victims are lured into paying for what looks like good deals for stays, and once they process payments, the agents disappear.

"An offer that seems too good to be true should make you suspicious." said Potgieter.

According to Sabric, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid becoming the victim of a scam:

  • Change your password regularly and never share them with anyone else. 
  • Store personal and financial documentation safely. Always lock it away.
  • Keep PINs and passwords confidential. 
  • Verify all requests for personal information and only provide it when there is a legitimate reason to do so. 
  • To prevent your ID being used to commit fraud if it is ever lost or stolen, alert the SA Fraud Prevention Service immediately on 0860 101 248 or at www.safps.org.za.
  • Ensure that you have a robust firewall and install antivirus software to prevent a computer virus sending out personal information from your computer. 
  • When destroying personal information, either shred or burn it (do not tear or put it in a garbage or recycling bag). 
  • Should your ID or driver's license be stolen report it to SAPS immediately.
  • Read the messages your bank sends you to confirm or process transactions.
  • Don't carry unnecessary personal information in your wallet or purse.
  • Don't disclose personal information such as passwords and PINs when asked to do so by anyone via telephone, fax or even email.
  • Don't write down PINs and passwords and avoid obvious choices like birth dates and first names. 
  • Don't use any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) as a password, user ID or personal identification number (PIN). 
  • Don't use Internet Cafes or unsecured terminals (hotels, conference centres, etc.) to do your banking.
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