The internet might be an excellent source of free information and allow us to perform a whole range of tasks from the comfort of our own homes or while on the move, but it has also opened up honest and hardworking consumers to a huge range of scams. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought so much hardship to so many people, has led to a surge in digital scams, with a TransUnion survey finding that 38 percent of South African consumers had been targeted by an online scam related to the outbreak, with 5 percent falling victim to it.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at three of the most prevalent online scams in South Africa at the moment and discuss what you can do if you fall victim.
1. Card not Present (CNP) Fraud
Card not present fraud is one of the most common online scams today. It involves the purchase of goods and services online without the use of a physical card or the cardholder’s permission. The cardholder’s details are usually stolen during a data breach, as a result of a phishing scam or by malware that has been installed on the victim’s PC.
This is a very difficult scam to protect yourself against because while you can take the steps to avoid phishing messages and malware, data breaches at businesses that hold your details are something you have no control over. For that reason, we would advise you to be very cautious about who you give your credit or debit card details to and check your bank statements regularly so you can spot any problems early on.
2. The Advance-Fee Scam
The advance-fee scam is one of the most enduring examples of online fraud. It involves an unsuspecting consumer being contacted by someone they have never met, who offers them a vast sum of money for a seemingly legitimate reason, such as assisting with a money transfer. As part of the ruse, the recipient is asked to pay a small administrative fee or provide their bank details so the money can be paid into their account. The scammer then disappears with the admin fee or the bank details and the transfer is never made.
This is a much easier scam to protect yourself against. If you are ever contacted by someone you do not know who says that you have won money or wants you to help with a financial transaction, ignore it. It is a scam 100 percent of the time. Any legitimate firm or individual will never ask for money by email and they certainly won’t send you a message that’s littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
3. Fake Facebook Giveaways
Facebook is the online version of the Wild West, where just anything goes and very few rules apply. Facebook has been rightfully pilloried for its reluctance to take down posts promoting baseless conspiracy theories, and it takes a similar approach to scams. In this particularly prevalent scam, victims are lured by the promise of generous prizes in posts that often mimic the pages of popular brands or celebrities. Their personal and financial details are then phished and their hard-earned money is stolen.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
The online loan website Wonga recently published advice on what to do if you’ve been the victim of a scam. The steps you should take include:
- Immediately cease contact with the scammer and do not make any further payments
- Contact your bank to ensure your accounts are secure and to try to recover any money you may have lost
- Check your Credit Bureau Profile to see if any loans or credit cards have been taken out in your name
- Report the scam to the email provider the scam originated from
- Report the scam to the South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS)
Have you fallen victim to an online scam? Did you report it and was the scammer ever caught? Please share your experiences with our readers in the comments below.