MONEY CLINIC | How can I protect my personal data from online scammers?

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Scammers usually trick people who don't know what they're doing by giving them a false sense of legitimacy.
Scammers usually trick people who don't know what they're doing by giving them a false sense of legitimacy.
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According to the Kepios Digital 2022: South Africa report, 41.19 million of South Africa's population are active internet users and are at risk of at some point encountering online financial fraud. 

Tony Mallam at upnup, Tshepo Matlou at Jurni, Andrew Bourne of Zoho Africa, and Zuko Mdwaba of Salesforce South Africa explore what we should be aware of to avoid being victims of cybercrime.

Due diligence is important

According to Mallam, managing director at upnup, investing in cryptocurrency is relatively new to the everyday person, and scammers often try to take advantage of people's lack of knowledge to make them buy into a crypto scam. 

Scammers usually trick people who don't know what they're doing by giving them a false sense of legitimacy, Mallam explains. They do this by making fake websites, crypto trading platforms that look like real ones, or investment schemes that claim to have endorsements from celebrities or people with a lot of power in the finance industry.

Other common crypto scams include rug-pull scams, where investors cannot withdraw funds after buying in; romance scams through relationships built online; phishing scams that aim to trick people into providing their personal or legitimate cryptocurrency wallet information; or giveaway scams.

As with any other investment, potential investors should perform their due diligence and research the site, platform and company they're looking to invest in to ensure that they have legitimate backers and are sold by reputable firms before buying in. 

It is also less risky to invest in well-known cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and avoid lesser-known coins, especially if they are experiencing a sudden upsurge. Using trusted and well-established investment platforms will help reduce the risk of falling into the clutches of the rising number of crypto scams worldwide.

Education is vital

African business owners should not hold back on making their businesses digital because of fear of technology, according to online booking platform and travel data repository Jurni. 

Head of marketing and communication, Matlou, says that travel businesses are embracing technology in their marketing efforts but their underlying fear of tech, mostly among travel operators in localised areas and townships, is from a data safety perspective. This includes the fear of fraud and having their data in the cloud, which they do not have control of.

Matlou says educating customers on the subject is vital. "Our clients are small businesses. We've been demystifying this notion by creating workshops nationally and educating small business owners about the safety of using a tech-based platform. We also provide the client with a signed agreement that speaks to maintaining the safety and integrity of their data when they are onboard."

Lead from the front

According to Bourne, regional manager of Zoho Africa, businesses may unintentionally provide third-party services access to not only their own data but also that of their staff and even consumers. Employees may fill out forms or click links that share information with third parties, especially if they work remotely.

There are ways to avoid sharing private information with cybercriminals, says Bourne. It is essential that businesses constantly communicate their data collection and monitoring processes. They should also do privacy audits for third-party solutions, particularly given how much video conferencing and other forms of remote collaboration are used. In light of this, Bourne says potentially invasive monitoring tools to measure output or background activity should be used judiciously. "Rather look at productivity and output as a form of qualitative monitoring." 

It's also important to lead from the front by making it company policy to block third-party trackers and only use software service providers with a similar approach. "This will go a long way in protecting your business and developing employee loyalty as they know that their personal information is also protected."

Collect the right data, then keep it safe 

"Navigating an increasingly complex technology and regulatory landscape where customer data is concerned is a key challenge for business in general and for marketers in particular," says Mdwaba, Area vice president and country leader of Salesforce South Africa. He points to Salesforce's latest State of Marketing report that shows 71% of South African marketers still invest in third-party data - however, 73% say they have a fully defined strategy to shift away from this approach. 

"This is positive news, but more can and must be done to protect customer data at all costs," says Mdwaba.

"Even where regulatory frameworks are already in place to ensure customer data is handled with integrity and in a transparent manner, the collector of the data should always differentiate between collecting data that can be applied to enhance the customer experience and merely collecting data for the sake of it."

Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Disclaimer: News24 cannot be held liable for any investment decisions made based on the advice given by independent financial service providers. Under the ECT Act and to the fullest extent possible under the applicable law, News24 disclaims all responsibility or liability for any damages whatsoever resulting from the use of this site in any manner.

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