We have been trying to get a hold of you with regards to the estate of the deceased Mrs. Imaliar, your great second aunt. She has bequeathed you a 10-million-pound inheritance. Please contact me on email@example.com so that we can arrange the transfer of these funds.
Mr. IM Notalawyer
We’re going to go out on a limb and say if you are reading this with a wry smile, you haven’t recently fallen victim to a Nigerian drug lord scam (good job you). We are also vaguely convinced that you haven’t sent your details to any long-lost great uncle’s cousin twice removed whom you have never heard of before, although they very kindly left you a massive lump sum inheritance. You didn’t jump up and down when you received news that you won the sweepstakes, with the ticket that you didn’t take either. And we know that you didn’t bat an eyelash when someone swooped into your inbox last week to declare they have access to your computer camera, a few nudes, and your address book, and that you will need to march to your nearest SPAR or Shoprite to send them R5,000 via Money Market, or they will pass the pics directly to your grandmother.
Suffice it to say, you have levelled up to ninja warrior status in the inbox wars. Dodging here, deleting there, and generally ignoring the spam and scams that creep in. As South Africans we are skeptical of everything from the get-go. And quite frankly, with the increase in fraud, and cybercrime in particular (71% between 2018 and 2020), it’s a useful default setting.
In the ‘real world,’ we’re happy to report that nobody has a cheque book anymore, remember those? But sadly, fraud is still prevalent.
Just recently, we received intel regarding a business who had run afoul of the latest grift. A potential (now deemed shady) client for them, called to place an order. Upon receiving the invoice this ‘customer’ sent back the proof of payment and an independent third-party driver to pick up the stock – at face value, things could not possibly appear to be more above board. Unfortunately, the proof of payment was fake, which left this business without their stock or their money.
We attended to a similar case ourselves shortly thereafter, where one of our clients was almost scammed, but due to our team’s involvement the crime was thankfully prevented.
So, yes, scammers, tricksters and conmen have gotten even more devious (now that everyone is getting a bit more suspicious), with very creative angles (we’d almost be impressed), that capitalises on their targets having a shortage of time to investigate the things that make their Spidey senses tingle.
That’s why we thought now may be a good time to throw ourselves onto your feeds, with some fraud protection tips and tricks. Here we go:
Fraud is a business, don’t let it affect yours
- Do not release goods until the money is reflected in your bank account.
- Phone your bank with the supplied reference number to find out if it is real or fake (we know this is a mission, but trust us, it’s better in the long run).
- Get as much info as possible from the driver who comes to collect the order, including ID, number plate and the car model.
Hold the line, while online
- Validate email addresses before responding to or opening a mail. Make sure that it is reflective of the business it is claiming to be from.
- If the mail is sent to ‘undisclosed recipients’ with you cc’d, that’s a siren call.
- If it isn’t formally addressed to you, that’s a red flag.
- Check the spelling and discrepancies in fonts or formatting. Bad guys don’t waste much time doing spellcheck, and so you will frequently spot an error or inconsistencies in font sizes and types, which your bank or subscription service would never have let slip through the cracks.
- Approach businesses and people who are selling anything online with caution. Google search and Facebook stalk them and see if there are any other reviews of their service. Add words like ‘scam’, ‘fraud’ or ‘complaints’ to the search string for specific results.
Cons are run by pros, so consider the following and stay safe.
- Share your stories. One of the reasons that scams manage to gain traction, other than preying on us when we are distracted or unsure, is that they exist in the shadows because we are embarrassed we fell for them. Don’t be. We have all been there (and these guys are professionals). Your story may just be the wakeup call that someone else needs.
- Be kind to each other. Scammers are smart. And falling for one doesn’t make the victim a fool. It makes the victim a victim.
- If you aren’t comfortable with something, trust your gut and if we’re your service provider, give us a call. You should always report suspicious activity.
- Credit cards are safer than debit cards. But maybe store them somewhere safe and use a digital e-wallet with secure advanced encryption instead. E-wallets generate a random number sequence for each individual transaction and in this way, your direct debit or credit card information is seldom compromised.
- Screen your calls. It’s not anti-social, its self-care. Vishing (scam phone calls to get your data) is a very common form of fraudulent activity.
- Phishing attacks are fraudulent communications that appear to come from a reputable source, generally via email. Never click a link or go to a login screen when directed from an email that you didn’t ask for.
- FYI. Fraudulent communication in the form of text message is called smishing (we all learn new things every day). Remember once again, not to click those links, even if you’ve won a million bucks.
- Don’t give your PIN, password or banking details to anyone. EVER. Imagine this in bold and with bright lights and warning sirens. No banking institution will ever ask you for these details. Hang up or delete and move on.
- Also don’t send your pins, passwords or credit card information to friends or family via mail or text. They may be trustworthy, but the routes aren’t secure.
- Check you statements, and question any discrepancies.
- Change passwords regularly, and please don’t write them on a slip of paper (we see you dad), or use the same one for everything (now we’re looking at you mom) or use someone’s name or birthday. It may seem like hard work, but there are secure apps out there to help you to manage your passwords. Take a look at this password parameters list, it puts things in perspective:
- Turn on two-factor authentication for extra protection.
- You’re gonna hate this one, but don’t use the free wi-fi while you’re eating your breakfast burrito or sitting in the airport. Hackers can tap in via these means, on unsecure networks, and if you are doing your banking or logging into someplace secure you are exposing your data to them.
- Get push notifications from your bank.
- Finally, sharing isn’t caring. Stop telling people where you are or aren’t and what you are doing. Go private on your social platforms. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers (we used our mom voice for that one), and don’t click on hyperlinks on social media posts. Any of these could compromise you, by allowing criminals the opportunity to create a profile of your habits and information, it even puts you at risk of identity theft.
At the end of the day, the most valuable tip we can give you is this, stay vigilant, stay suspicious, stay informed but don’t stay on the line. Instead hang up and call us instead. In Case of Anything.