As you do your festive shopping keep these cyber safety precautions in mind

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  •  Many of us have opted for online shopping during this pandemic, using online banking instead of ATMs and choosing at-home delivery services where possible. 
  • Of course, making payments virtually exposes new risks and requires a different kind of care to maintain safety against potential scammers. The primary shield against scammers is to arm yourself with information.
  • Here's how to maintain your festive bliss by protecting yourself from scams.

The South African Reserve bank recently warned against the use of 'instant EFT' as a payment method when doing online shopping warning that it compromises data privacy, risks fraud and Breach of contractual agreements.

Banking crimes, email hacking, SIM swops and number porting, fake websites and bogus shipping notices are just some of the threats you will need to look out for. 

Be wary of pop-up ads 

Anna Collard, Managing Director of cyber crime awareness company, Popcorn Training, advises you avoid clicking on pop-up ads and special offers because the links may take you to fake sites that often look a lot like the real thing. She suggests you practice the age-old rule of thumb: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. 

READ MORE: Can’t resist splurging on online shopping? Here’s why 

Look out for fake shipping notices

Anna says fake shipping notices can also become more of a problem in peak shopping seasons because many people expect or send packages anyway so they are less likely to approach an email with an unexpected shipping notice with suspicion. 

“You end up clicking on the attachment or filling out the form and next thing you know, you’ve been phished or hacked. Always check with the person who supposedly sent the package before you do anything, that way you can be absolutely sure it isn’t a scam,” she adds.

Have multiple email addresses

When it comes to email scams, South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) suggests you use different email addresses for different purposes. The centre advises that you use your original email address for personal or business communication as you would do usually and then use an alternative email address to communicate with your service provider(s) – then use yet another email address for registering for websites, newsletters, online shopping and other services. 

In addition to this, it is suggested you use different passwords for each account, passwords that are at least six characters long and are a combination of letters, numbers and capitals/lowercase letters.

READ MORE: SA fraud statistics confirm higher levels of crime - a guide to scams you should be aware of

“Fraudsters take advantage of digital technology and platforms to carry out their fraudulent activities. The theft of personal and confidential information by criminals, through various means, enables them to carry out their criminal activities on digital platforms” says SABRIC CEO, Kalyani Pillay.

Don’t click on links from unsolicited emails and SMSes

“Unfortunately, through social engineering and the use of malware/spyware, criminals gain access to their victims personal and confidential banking information. With social engineering, the victim is manipulated into believing that they are communicating with their bank or some reputable company and divulges the information required by the fraudster. Often they are asked to click on links in the communication which loads malware/spyware on the victim’s device,” said Kalyani.

READ MORE: Thinking of working abroad? Take these 4 steps to protect yourself from being scammed

The centre cautions against confirmatory emails from email addresses that are almost identical or that differ from the genuine email address by perhaps one letter that can be easily missed.

Check your cell phone connectivity

If you lose mobile connectivity under circumstances where you are usually connected, the centre advises to check whether you may have been the victim of an illegal SIM swop. If confirmed, notify your bank immediately.

Regularly verify whether details received from cell phone notifications are correct and according to the recent activity on your account. Contact your bank immediately should any details appear suspicious and report all log-on notifications that are unknown to you.

Kalyani warns: “Anyone can fall victim to bank-related crimes ... Criminals will strike wherever there are opportunities.”

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