Important information on scams
For decades, scammers have been finding new ways to con people – from fake vehicle recalls to cyber scams, there is no end to the innovative methods they employ to trick us into parting with our money and personal information. You can rely on us to keep you updated with some of the latest scams and provide advice to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim.
Vehicle recall scam
As recently as November 2020, a new vehicle recall scam was discovered. The Insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) issued an alert on the scam following a significant increase in cases.
The scammer’s method:
The scammers contact unsuspecting vehicle owners, pretending to be officials from the manufacturer. They then attempt to convince you that your vehicle has a serious malfunction and is part of a batch being recalled as a result – and of course they promise to repair or replace your vehicle.
Following the call, they will usually send a follow-up email, requesting to collect your vehicle. When you agree, they arrive to tow your vehicle away. Then, when you call the dealership for an update, you discover that you have fallen victim to a scam and your vehicle has been stolen.
Advice to protect yourself:
- Verify that the recall is legitimate by contacting the manufacturer and/or dealership directly.
- Take care when it comes to sharing personal information on social media and over the phone. These details are used by criminals to build a precise profile of their victims.
- Be vigilant and sceptical when talking to strangers. Ensure that they are in fact employees of the company they claim to represent.
- Report any suspicious calls or any other form of communication to the authorities, the manufacturer and/or the dealership.
Cybercrime in South Africa is a massive problem and has been further aggravated by lockdown. In fact, cyber security provider, Kaspersky, reported that devices affected by cyberattacks increased from under 30 000 daily to 310 000 on 18 March 2020. With this in mind, heightened vigilance is critical when engaging in any activity online.
Here are some of the most common cyber threats to be aware of:
- Identity theft – cybercriminals can create a fake persona that replicates your own by gathering crucial personal information about you. By ‘stealing’ your identity they can pose as you in order to gain access to benefits like loans and credit.
- Phishing – one of the most common methods that cybercriminals use to gather your personal information is malicious links and attachments in emails. When you open the link or attachment, they can steal information like your login details, which they use to gain access to your financial accounts. If you are at all suspicious, delete the email immediately.
- Ransomware – this involves a hacker encrypting files on your computer. The only way to get the files back is to pay the hacker in crypto currency, like Bitcoin. Ransomware can easily be installed when you open suspicious links and attachments mentioned above.
To help protect you against cybercrime, Auto & General offers the following advice:
- Stay up to date with the latest scams and increase your knowledge on scams through reading about them on reputable sites, like those of banks and insurance companies.
- Choose strong passwords – it can be tempting to have the same simple password for all your online accounts, but it exposes you to increased cyber risk. Instead, choose different passwords with a variety of upper-case and lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers. If you are worried about forgetting the passwords, you can use apps like KeepSafe to store them. Remember that most sites have a ‘Forgot username/password’ option so you can reset your password if necessary.
- Double check if shopping sites are reputable – one way to do this is by looking at the URL of the website. If it begins with “https” instead of “http” it means the site is secure. Another way to check is to ask friends, family and colleagues if they have heard of the site or used it before.
- Practise extra caution when using WiFi hotspots – some scammers create false popular hotspots to gather your personal information.
- Back up the data on your computer, daily – this may seem like unnecessary extra work, but it should take just a few minutes and will give you additional peace of mind.
- Scrutinise your monthly statements to identify unusual/unauthorised transactions or behaviours on your accounts. Criminals can skim off many small amounts that could easily go unnoticed.
- Invest in high quality security software and a firewall on your computer – and update these regularly.
- Never click on random links or attachments in suspicious emails.
- Use different login details for different sites – avoid using your social media profiles to log in to other accounts.
- Limit the personal information you share on social media – this includes details that could lead to identity theft and other criminal acts. For example, if you post that you’re going on holiday, criminals will know exactly when your home will be unoccupied.
- If it seems too good to be true, it is false – one of the most common scams is an email or SMS stating that you’ve won a huge amount of money in a competition or lottery you didn’t enter, or that you’ve inherited millions from a relative you don’t know. Delete these immediately and don’t respond.
EFT Payment Scam
Many of us are accustomed to making regular EFT payments but a recent warning from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and the Payments Association of South Africa highlights the reasons for avoiding instant EFT payments. Find out more: https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/online-shoppers-warned-against-making-instant-eft-payments/