The Covid-19 pandemic, joblessness and the holiday season all give crooks an opportunity to trick consumers.
When people are under financial pressure and have to live frugally they’re more likely to fall for gimmicks about saving or making money.
Often social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp are used to put out the bait with clickable links that can download viruses onto your computer or cellphone.
And if you’ve disclosed personal information, it could be used for identity fraud. Here are some of the common scams doing the rounds.
- FAKE CHARITY FUNDRAISING
Fraudsters have no qualms about pretending they’re a legitimate charity. While you may think you’re donating to a relief fund, you could actually be giving your credit card or other payment information to a fraudster.
It’s quite easy to use social media to find out more about a charity organisation. Google their name or check on Facebook to see if you can find out how long the charity has been active and what other people have said about it.
Do your research before you donate money.
- SURVEY FRAUD
You’re asked in a WhatsApp or email message to take part in a survey by a well-known company and offered a chance to win cash.
Usually you have to click on a link where you’ll be asked to answer questions about the company (insurance questions, for example, if they’re pretending to be a life insurer or questions about products if it’s supposedly from a retail chain).
If you get a message like this, don’t click on any links or share your personal details.
Take a close look at the website or email address of the company doing the survey.
If it’s a scam something won’t make sense – such as a big company suddenly sending communication from a Gmail address or with its name misspelt on the web address.
Some well-known companies do in fact do surveys and this can be confirmed on their websites or with their call centres.
You can also check their official Facebook page or website for communication about promotions and surveys. Make sure your computer and cellphone antivirus software is up to date.
- VOUCHERS OR COUPON GIFTS
These messages on social platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp usually say company X is giving away vouchers or coupons as part of its birthday celebrations.
It usually looks legitimate and because the company, for example a retail store, is actually celebrating its birthday you don’t think twice. Again there’s a fake link to click on.
Don’t do it. Don’t share the post or any personal information. Check the company’s official social media pages or website to see if there really is a lucky draw or competition.
- FAKE JOB OFFERS
You see a job at a well-known company advertised on Facebook. It seems genuine but they require your personal information plus they charge an admin fee for applications and say you need to pay the money into an account before your application will be considered.
Usually their line is that those who respond fastest are more likely to be considered for the new post. However, big companies don’t use generic websites or Facebook posts to advertise jobs.
Most have an official “careers” page on their website. They also don’t charge for applications.
- SUPPOSED CLOTHES AND PRODUCT GIFTS
You receive an email from a retailer or another company supposedly “welcoming” you because you’ve become an online client (or for another reason).
They request your delivery address, contact numbers and other personal information to deliver products specially earmarked for new online clients.
The offer of free stuff is tempting but, again, don’t click on links or share personal information.
If you’re really interested in the gift, call the company’s call centre – use the phone number on their website and not on the message you’ve received – and check if it is in fact legitimate.
- DEBT-RELIEF AND CREDIT- RECOVERY SCAMS
You get a message offering a way for you to quickly settle your debt or restore your bad credit record.
The scammers promise to negotiate with your creditors and settle or consolidate your debt.
Their other line is that any negative information will be removed from your credit report. But they demand quite a hefty sum in return. And once you’ve paid, they disappear.
If you do need help with debt, you can verify whether someone is a registered debt counsellor on the National Credit Regulator’s (NCR) website.
Registered debt counsellors’ fees are stipulated and they’re not allowed to charge fees in advance.
- ONLINE DATE SWINDLERS
Cybercriminals use dating sites and social media to strike up conversations with potential victims.
Once they’ve gained your trust, they suddenly need money for some or other reason – it could be a child with a health condition or for an air ticket (or some other expense) to visit you – all the while confessing their love and admiration for you.
You’re asked to pay the money into their account. The rule of thumb when it comes to sending money is preferably don’t send it to someone you’ve never met in person.
Also be careful not to share too much personal information on online dating sites or with people you don’t know.
GET MORE ADVICE
- Banks’ websites have information about the latest scams.
- The National Credit Regulator: www.ncr.org.za
- Southern African Fraud Prevention Service: www.safps.org.za/