Category Fraud/Crime

Arm yourself against online scammers

23 March 2021 Momentum

Momentum Financial Adviser Janine Horn provides some tips on how to protect yourself from online scammers and fraud

As our lives are thrust further into the digital matrix, the line between reality and virtual become increasingly blurred. In these times of crisis, where many South Africans are under severe pressure, it might seem all too easy to fall for untrustworthy advice or get-rich-quick scams when approached online.

This is evident with the latest global crisis, which has become fertile ground for online fraud. Last year, a TransUnion survey revealed that 38% of South African consumers have been a target of digital fraud related to COVID-19, with 5% having paid the price for their lack of awareness.
Financial adviser from Momentum Financial Planning, Janine Horn, believes it has never been more important to understand your rights when looking for financial products or advice online.

“The ploys of these online fraudsters are becoming incredibly difficult to detect, and so are their agendas. It’s no longer simple financial fraud – this new wave of online scamming now encompasses identity theft, voter manipulation, misuse of personal data - and everything in between.”

Horn was speaking off the back of the latest episode of the VIA money show Geldhelde (DStv Channel 147), where Deputy CEO of Momentum Metropolitan, Jeanette Marais said that making ends meet is one of the top concerns for South Africans, according to the 2020 Momentum Unisa Household Financial Wellness Insights.

In the episode, Marais talked at length about the financial dangers presented by online scammers, who prey on South Africans desperately trying to keep their heads above water, through seeking additional streams of income.
“Finding information online can be misleading. Not all sources are credible and not all people who are vocal on these channels are experts. Be careful not to fall for scams or fraudsters. An SMS or message asking for your personal details or bank account number - with no context - is a massive red flag,” Marais warns.

According to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), ‘Cyber criminals want to obtain your identity number, your bank account details, your PIN (personal identity number), passwords and/or any other particulars that will give them access to further information on you, on your bank account(s), access to your current or potential earnings, to that of your family if possible, to the grant or pension money you receive, to any other information or details on you which would tell them more about you.’

“They are the ultimate actors, and some even deserve an Oscar for their performances. They pretend to be lawyers, government officials, police, debt collectors - you name it,” says Horn.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Horn offers some sage advice:

Don’t get personal
“You wouldn’t trust a stranger with your secrets, so don’t do it online - which broadly includes over the phone and email as well - with your personal details. Horn advises that if you ever have any doubts, it is a good idea to phone the entity in question to confirm the specific details that they need, and why. “You would do well to remember that your banks will never ask for your ATM pin, card security number or your passwords.”

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
Scammers have been around since there was money to be taken. The charm of the online snake oil salesman is no different to that of any other scammer. “They can be charming, persuasive, convincing and con you out of your life savings in a matter of an hour. The age-old wisdom remains true to this day – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no shortcut to wealth, especially in these difficult economic times. Don’t be swayed otherwise.”

Everyone is a target
Ultimately, Horn says that nobody is exempt. “We are all potential victims and should not think that we are not the targets of these attacks. With the amount of data cyber criminals can obtain from a quick google search, you’ll be surprised at how easily you can be duped.”

She advises that we all need to be wary and arm ourselves with the knowledge and awareness that will protect us on our journey to success. For more information on online scams in South Africa, visit the Financial Intelligence Centre. There are plenty of resources and statistics to help you prepare to defend yourself, your finances and your family.

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