Protect yourself (and your money) from the latest scams

My Money Matters Written by  Monique Vrey

03 November 2017

We live in a fast-paced world where the times are ever-changing. In the past few years we’ve become more dependent on the Internet than ever before. Think about it; you have social media accounts on almost every online platform, you shop online, you search for almost every bit of information online and most importantly – you take care of your banking online too. Though this saves us a lot of time and ultimately makes our lives easier, it also means that we have a bigger responsibility to enforce certain online security measures. We can’t deny that fraud is a problem, and most people think it won’t hit them – until it does.

We recently spoke to Absa’s, Elize de Villiers, who deals with combatting cyber fraud, about some of the most threatening scams that have surfaced in the last year. She also shared some key tips and pieces of advice on how you can stay sharp and avoid falling victim to those ever-present fraudsters lurking on the Internet.

  • Firstly, what is your role at Absa and what does your department do exactly?

I am essentially the ‘fraud lady’ within the team that develop and monitor all of Absa’s digital channels. We constantly keep an eye on all of our channels to ensure that we keep our customers as safe as possible when they do their banking with us. Whenever fraudulent activity pops onto our radar, we will investigate and review the threat to see what we can do to eliminate it as quickly as possible.

  • What are the most common scams that have surfaced over the last year that customers can look out for?

The biggest scam we’re dealing with right now, is the eStatement look-alike scam. Essentially the fraudsters send you a phishing email that looks similar to your monthly eStatement. Although some scams are obviously fake, there are others that are so sophisticated they even have professionals checking them twice to be sure. This latest scam, is very concerning for the following reasons:

  • It appears to come from an Absa email address (i.e. although it doesn’t really
  • Images and content are copied from the website
  • The call centre number is real
  • The links to our products are legitimate

There are however a few things you can always look at to establish whether the statement you’ve received is real, or fake. It is a phishing email if it isn’t personally addressed (e.g. Dear Mrs Smith) to you, or if there is a link to an attachment that states “Download Attachment File”. Unlike with your real statement which shows you your latest statement details – once you click on this fraudulent download, you are taken to a spoof website where you are requested to input your personal details in order to claim your coupons and discounts.

Until you are 100% certain, never click on a download link or open any attachments and never respond to these emails. When in doubt, delete.

  • What is phishing and what can customers do to avoid becoming victims of phishing?

Phishing is when fraudsters make use of emails or social methods to get you to give up your passwords or access credentials to access your digital banking. We’ve noticed that these fraudsters have also started using alternative methods to trick you into giving up your details – such as phoning you and pretending to be an Absa consultant and asking you to log onto your account to make certain payments, all while they have someone monitoring what you’re doing and downloading all of that information.

I really think one of the biggest things people should do, is to educate themselves. We’ve got a security centre that gets updated very regularly with all of the information that our customers need to know in order to keep themselves and their money safe from scammers.  I would highly recommend that customers go and take a look to stay up to date.

  • The term malware pops up a lot in association with phishing and scams, what is the connection between the two?

Malware is just another method that fraudsters use to get access to your personal credentials. At the end of the day, taking money from your account and putting it into an account that’s controlled by them, is their only goal. Where phishing is a more threat-based method of obtaining your details, malware requires coding knowledge and the programming of software with malicious intent.

  • Phishing scams have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, what is the bank doing to keep abreast of these scams and ultimately protect customers?

Staying ahead of the fraudsters is quite a challenge, since they change their methods very often. From our side we do however, have a lot of encryption and systems in place to detect and eliminate these scams as soon as possible, but it is imperative that customers take the responsibility upon themselves to be vigilant and protect their pin and passwords as best they can.

Here are a few of the measures that we have taken to ensure secure online banking on our site:

How can the bank assist if a customer has fallen victim to phishing scams?

The first thing would be to immediately phone the fraud hotline on 0860 557 557 once you realise that there has been fraudulent activity on your account. Your details will be verified telephonically with a few security questions, after which you will be advised to go to your nearest branch since it’s easier and faster to fill in the required paperwork in person. We need to understand exactly what has happened, so that we can take the matter forward as swiftly and accurately as possible. From there an investigation will take place where we will try and recover your money and look at how the fraud took place and what needs to be done in each individual case.

The bottom line is that your chances of being defrauded are extremely low, but ultimately there is enough information out there to help you protect yourself. How you use that is up to you.

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.