Have you heard the latest about scams?

Yesterday FNB sent me a reminder to be careful about scams and what I should do if I encounter them. I am always grateful for their sustained efforts to combat these. It is sad that I have to write so often about them.

They have become so common place, that people joke about the Nigerian General that is trying to overthrow the Government and needs your help whilst offering you handsome rewards. Or there is the one about the long-lost relative you never heard about who has singled you out to inherit vast amounts of money because they have come to realise that blood is thicker than water. Yet, scams are no laughing matter.

The enemy is now living close to home, literally

It is no longer our Nigerian brothers that are to blame. In the connected world in which we live, it is often easier to commit fraud across borders than inside one’s own country. TransUnion reports that the highest percent of suspected fraudulent digital transactions against businesses come from Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria, in that order.

Lately, criminals have become really bold. They are capitalizing on the fear that people have of being scammed!

Financial Services fraud

The scam many people fall victim to is someone calling from the fraud department of the bank or anywhere that you have an account. They will request your details to prevent fraudulent transactions.

They may also say that this is a ‘courtesy call’ to make sure that your details are correct. They lull you into a sense of calm, by stating that ‘all calls may be recorded for safety and training purposes’. They may have access to an astonishing amount of your personal information already, which they readily share with you to win your trust. If in doubt, say goodbye and check in with your bank’s fraud line or a consultant at the branch as soon as possible.

Please note: no bank will ever ask you to confirm such details as the cards pin number, transaction OTPs, and mobile or internet banking passwords

TransUnion reports that, during the last year, the following increases in fraud have been reported:

Financial Services114.68%57.49%Identity Theft
Retail86.32%38.71%Promotion Abuse
Telecommunications46.26%57.52%Credit Card Fraud

COVID-19 scams

According to TransUnion, fraudsters are always looking for ways to use world events to their advantage. They are taking advantage of the fact that many consumers and businesses are still adjusting to the acceleration of digitization.

The impact on businesses

According to a recent report on the latest quarterly analysis of global online fraud trends, criminals have made it their business to increase their digital attacks on businesses and individuals.

TransUnion reports that scams that originated in South Africa increased by 43.62% between March 11, 2019-March 10, 2020, and March 11, 2020-March 10, 2021.

The reality is that consumer habits have changed – they are shopping and finding entertainment online like never before. Despite the threats and the warnings, consumers still expect businesses to keep their transactions safe. Failure to do so can lead to extreme financial and reputational damage to businesses.


It also found that 37% of South African consumers have recently been targeted. According to Keith Wardell, product director at TransUnion Africa. “it has become clear that the war against the virus has also brought about a war against digital fraud.”

Added to the above, INTERPOL, the international criminal police organisation, reported that, in South Africa, there are people going around to collect bills and coins that have been ‘infected’ by the virus.

Who is being targeted the most?

  • The elderly

According to the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) Reana Steyn, whilst all South Africans are being targeted, Steyn said that the devastation caused by these scams to elderly citizens and pensioners is particularly heart-breaking.

We have had cases where an elderly person’s entire pension is stolen due to the fraud and there is no way, or time, for an 80-year-old pensioner to make up the loss,” said Steyn. “Unless the money is stolen at the bank or lost through the fault of an employee or a technological glitch at the bank, it is ultimately up to consumers to do all they can to protect themselves by staying informed about banking scams“, she said.

  • Gen Z consumers (born 1995–2002)

Surprisingly, according to TransUnion, this age group are currently the most targeted of any generation, at 39%. The top pandemic-themed scheme is unemployment scams, with 29% of young people saying they were hit with it.

Big and trusted names are being tossed around

  • The South African Reserve Bank (SARB)

On its website, the SARB’s states that the public should take note that its corporate identity has been previously ‘hijacked’ and has been abused by syndicates using scam letters in order to deceive people. Victims have been lured into transactions because the documents display the logo or the name of the SARB.

It provides the following links to various types of scams and schemes:







  • World health and related bodies

Emails with suspicious links have also been sent purporting to be from the World Health Organization, United Nations and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

INTERPOL has also warned against criminals who are pretending to be clinic or hospital officials, reporting that a relative has fallen sick with the virus and requesting payments for medical treatment. Some people have also been offered ‘deals’ on fake medical products, such as masks, vaccines and testing kits.

How do I check if what I have received is legitimate?

Your bank

Every South African bank has a fraud line and link to their website where you can report fraud. Here are some:

  • ABSA – Call 0860 557 557 or 011 501 5089. Report the phishing email as an attachment to Secmon@absa.co.za
  • FNB – Call 087 575 9444 (South Africa) or +27 11 369 2924 (Outside South Africa) or report it on their website home page
  • Standard Bank – use this link for an extensive list of scams and what to do
  • Capitec – call their helpline on: 0860102043 (read here)

The Banking Association of South Africa

This association has a comprehensive section on its website regarding bank crime of various sorts and what you should do if it happens. You can find the link here.

The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS)

If you are unhappy with how your bank has dealt with a situation, you can contact the Ombud.

Everybody’s responsibility

In a crisis, it is easy to think that it is every person for themselves. However, it is vital that we look after one another – as long as there are vulnerable and desperate people, there will be someone who sees an opportunity to capitalise on this.

Speak to your relatives, your staff, and your clients – not once, but often. The ‘classic’ scams will always be there, but the angles used may change, and new scams appear all the time.

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