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Top scams to watch out for as you enjoy this year's Black Friday sales

| Crime and security

Despite the continued reports about the tough economic environment facing South African consumers and the fact that disposable income is steadily decreasing, South Africans are still enjoying Black Friday sales.

Statistics released by First National Bank show that over R2.4 billion was spent in-store during 2022 Black Friday sales, while R670 million was spent on online sales. FNB reports that the value of online purchases (where a card was not present) increased by 31% compared to 2021 black Friday sales, while in-store spending increased by 18%.

While consumers are trying to find the best way to stretch their Black Friday budget, the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) warns that scammers are very active during this period. "The increases presented by FNB show active participation in these sales. However, these increases also present more opportunities for scammers to turn consumers into victims," says Nazia Karrim, Head of Product Development at the SAFPS.

She points out that various scams are being run by international scam syndicates that consumers need to be aware of this Black Friday.

Spoofed shopping sites

Domain spoofing is when a scammer uses fake websites that mimic the actual websites of businesses. Outside of the domain name, the website can look identical to the trusted site. The spoofed website might collect personal information, including payment details when you try to make a purchase, or it could download malware to your device.

“When consumers interact on a spoofed site, their personal details are compromised, and perhaps even their banking details have been handed over to scammers to abuse. Armed with ID numbers, residential addresses and banking details scammers can assume the victim’s identity and create significant financial distress for the victim,” says Karrim.

Account verification scams

Account verification scams occur when fraudsters ask for personal information to secure an account. Consumers may receive a call, text message or email that looks like it's official communication from a company, and it may sound urgent — a common theme with these scams is a warning that someone has compromised your account.

When we receive a call from a supposed “bank employee”, urgently calling to verify yourself, or requesting you to enter a One-Time-Pin as there is a possibility that your account has been defrauded, consumers drop their guard, and they provide the requested information or pin. The caller creates this panic and urgency and when consumers provide the pin and/or information is when their bank accounts are being emptied," says Karrim

Billing error scams

A billing error scam is a key tactic that scammers use to turn consumers into victims as it falsifies a sense of urgency.

"Consumers may receive an invoice or phone call about products you didn't order. Counterfeit invoices can be sent as email attachments that might infect your device, or a scammer may call you to confirm your payment details to settle the bill. Both methods are used to obtain personal information illegally," says Karrim.

Facebook scams encapsulate most of the fraudulent activities listed above and include cons such as:

  • Asking consumers to pay a fee in advance and not sending the product;
  • Presenting flyers for products that are on a malicious or proxy website; and
  • Charging extremely low prices for products

"The most common tactic used by fraudsters is social engineering. Most social media users are aware of targeted advertising, where advertisements for products they search online are packed and presented to them on their timeline. But not all of these links are genuine. Fraudsters use targeted advertising to lure consumers to a proxy site where all their personal information is provided. From there, the fraudsters can easily assume the consumer's identity and use this identity to commit fraud," says Karrim.

An important tool

Because of the increase in scams in South Africa, the SAFPS launched Yima, a platform providing free online tools to combat these scams. Karrim points out that the Yima platform has proven very effective in the proactive fight against fraud.

"Yima is a one-stop-shop website for South Africans to report scams, secure their identity, and scan any website for vulnerabilities related to scams. Consumers can also inform themselves how to identify a scam. Using the Yima tools will enable consumers to surf the internet more safely, access online banking and online shopping sites more confidently, and stay actively aware and informed," says Karrim.

One of the main elements of the website is the ability to report a scam incident or any suspicious activity to the SAFPS. This suspicious activity includes a fake or suspect-looking online shopping website/portal and instances where the user has received phoney banking information. These reports will be collated and shared with the relevant authorities for syndicate identification.

Users are also provided with a scams hotline to report a fraud incident directly to their banks, retailers or insurance companies via a single number. Users only need to remember one number rather than search for each institution's contact numbers online. “By dialling 083 123 SCAM (7226), victims of fraud will be able to be put through to relevant authorities such as the South African Police Service as well as their bank or other registered credit providers to report their case. This will simplify the process of reporting fraud cases and will hopefully alleviate some of the stress that victims of fraud experience," says Karrim.

She adds that this is once again another example of how the SAFPS is changing the narrative when it comes to a proactive approach to combatting fraud.

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