How to spot a scam

During the December holidays it’s seems like everyone is trying to sell you something via sms or phone call. Make sure you don’t get caught in a scam and reveal personal details to fraudsters.

Here are some of the most common scams and a few tips on how to spot them, compiled by Direct Axis:

Banking scams

Criminals send you an email or sms alert with a link you need to follow to confirm a payment. You are redirected to what appears to be a bank’s website. You are required to provide your account details and other useful information, which is then used to empty your account.

Other variations include messages from ‘your bank’ asking you to confirm your details.

Banks have send out many messages both via sms, email and their website warning users that they will never request personal details via electronic channels. You should go to your closest branch to change any details or confirm payments. Contact your bank immediately if you think you are being scammed.

Personal loan scams

People are invited to apply for a low-interest loan but are required to pay a fee upfront for admin, legal or other neccessary costs. Although the fee is paid, the loan amount is never paid out.

Marlies Kappers, DirectAxis head of marketing, warns people not to assume an email is legitimate just because it carries a logo, a company registration number or other details such as a head-office address. Many fraudulent e-mails look like the real thing.

Identity theft

Not all phishing and smishing involves getting your account details or luring you into making a payment. The aim of some scams is to get just enough information to open a fraudulent store, online shopping or loan account.

This is usually done through a request by a financial institution, retailer or online shop to confirm information.

Don’t react to emails asking for details a company should already have and ignore any requests from companies that you’ve never done business with.

Lottery and competition scams

Despite being well-known scams, people still manage to fall for their trap.

If you are told that you’ve won a prize or lottery without even entering and that you need to provide information such as your ID number and banking details to claim your prize, ignore the message.

Two other variations are that you’ve received an inheritance or that a wealthy person needs your help to transfer a large amount of money. You are usually required to do a payment in order for the transaction to proceed.

How to spot a scam:

  • You are usually offered money for nothing. All you have to do is click on a link, download an attachment or provide some personal information.
  • The e-mail or SMS is not personalised. You’re addressed as Sir, Madam or Customer. Communication from legitimate sources is more likely to be personalised.
  • You are pressurised into responding. This tactic is often used in lottery, inheritance and competition scams and aims to pressure you to reply before you have time to think. Alternatively scammers can try to scare you into providing information and threaten to close an account or suspend a service if information is not quickly provided. If in doubt, always first check with the company.
  • Upfront payment is required. Never provide any upfront payments, no matter how genuine the e-mail or SMS seems.
  • Personal or account information is required. Do not respond to an e-mail asking for personal or financial details and never click on a link to provide these details. If you need to transact or want to open an account, type the company’s address into your browser.
  • The e-mail or SMS you’ve received is from an unknown sender or someone with whom you’ve never done business. If you’re an FNB client and you receive a payment notification from another bank, it’s probably a scam.
  • You are urged to open an attachment. If your bank has never sent you an attachment before, be suspicious. Most financial institutions or retailers do not send attachments. High risk attachment file types include: .exe, .scr, .zip, .com, .bat.
  • Look out for the unusual. If the logo looks slightly different, the website address seems odd (co.th instead of co.za) brand and product names are incorrect, the spelling and grammar is poor or the message has been sent to multiple recipients, then the SMS or e-mail you’ve received could be a scam.

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