Watch out for these online banking scams

(iStock)
(iStock)

Johannesburg - Local internet users can do more to protect themselves from falling victim to online banking crimes, says the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric).

Internet security firm Norton has reported that an average of 21 hours and $358 was lost per consumer globally over the past year owing to online crime. 

And Sabric has said this trend is no different in South Africa.

“This global trend is no different to what we are experiencing in South Africa, and consumers need to take the power into their own hands by ensuring they are informed on how to protect themselves, especially when doing business online,” said Kalyani Pillay, CEO of South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), in a statement.

Subsequently, SABRIC, on behalf of its member banks in South Africa, has launched a ‘Schemes and Scams Campaign’ to boost awareness of various online crimes.

READ: Standard Bank computer was hacked in R300m ATM fraud hit - report 

Change of bank account details scam

The scam operates by an innocent recipient receiving an email or letter informing them that a particular supplier of theirs has changed their bank account details. 

The correspondence will include the details of the new account. You will be asked to make future payments into the new account. These details are fraudulent with the consequence that monies are paid to the fraudster and not the supplier. 

In certain instances, the fraudsters also phone the victims informing them of the change of details and that a letter will follow. The telephone call will be used by the fraudster so that they can extract more information to make their communication more believable.

Criminals use social engineering to accumulate information in order to commit fraudulent acts. 

Unfortunately, the victims are not only corporates, but also their clients and partners. 

“As with personal information, corporate information needs to be protected as well,” said Pillay.

“In a day, a company could lose vast sums of money through the ‘Fraudulent Change of Banking Details’ scam,” said Pillay.

“Should you fall victim to this type of fraud, it is important to contact your Bank immediately so that they can assist you to stop any payment, where possible”, Pillay added.


Regular banking users can do more to protect themselves, says Sabric. (Supplied)

How to prevent this scam

To prevent the change of bank account details scam, Sabric suggests the following:

- Maintain a good relationship with existing suppliers and know your contacts so that you are able to liaise with them when required.

- If called by a ‘supplier’, ask to speak to your known contacts and do not take instructions from staff at the supplier who are not known to you.

- Beware of supposedly confirmatory emails from almost identical email addresses, such as .com instead of .co.za, or addresses that differ from the genuine one by perhaps one letter that can be easily missed. 

- Instruct staff with the responsibility of paying invoices to scrutinise invoices for irregularities and escalating suspicions to a known contact.

- Ensure that your company’s private information is not disclosed to third parties who are not entitled to receive it, or third parties whose identities cannot be rightfully verified.

- Rather shred your business and suppliers invoices or any communication material that may contain letterheads, than discarding these in rubbish bins.

The deposit scam

A criminal orders goods or services from a business and makes a payment into the victim’s account, mostly by means of a fraudulent cheque. 

Proof of payment is then sent to the business and goods are delivered to the criminal. When the bank processes the cheque, it is uncovered that the cheque is fraudulent and as a result no funds are transferred to the victim’s account. 

The victim is thus out of pocket as they do not have the goods nor the money. In other instances the order is cancelled and an urgent refund is requested. Alternately a payment is made in ‘error’ and an urgent refund is requested.

The refund scam

This scam is characterised by fraudster requesting a quotation for a specific service or goods. ‘Payment” is then allegedly made and proof of payment is then provided for an amount that far exceeds the quotation.  

For example, if the quotation is for R2 990, the fraudulent deposit would be for R22 990. The supplier’s office would then be contacted to alert them to the mistaken over-payment and an urgent refund would be requested.  

The service provider will go through their records and notice that indeed an extra amount has been paid into their bank account and they will make the urgent refund of the “over-payment” of R20 000.  

After some time, they will notice that the deposit is reversed by the bank because payment was made with a fraudulent cheque that was subsequently not cleared by the bank.  The service provider suffers the loss because effectively, they have refunded money they never actually received.

How to prevent the deposit and refund scams

- No ‘refund’ should be made without first verifying with the Bank that the deposit that has been made into your account is indeed valid.

- In addition, you should wait for all cheque deposits to first be cleared before handing the goods over to a depositor.

- Take great care to protect personal information and that of your company. It is through access to this information that perpetrators gain access to you and your organisation.

- Staff dealing with finance in your organisation should be educated about such scams.

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