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Cyber-crime:  Some time ago, the author of this article was scammed. Apart from my ego taking a knock (how can that happen to me), my bank account drew some punches as well.  What happened?, I hear your ask.cyber-crime

I got gifted a brand-new iPad.  As I already had a tablet, I decided to sell the device via a popular online platform.  I made it clear – only cash or EFT will suffice.  The buyer confirmed that he banks at the same bank as I do, so the EFT will show almost immediately in my account.  I agreed to meet his representative at a large mall, where the person would inspect the device, and give the go ahead for payment.  I thought I ticked all the ‘anti-scam’ boxes.

The emissary agreed that the device was new and called the buyer. Minutes later, I received a sms – the money had been paid.  I handed over the device and started drooling over the new large screen TV that this unplanned income would contribute towards.

An hour later my bank called me and informed me that a fraudulent cheque was paid into my account. No, I said, it was an EFT….. Not so, replied the bank lady. If only I had scrolled all the way down on the SMS that I have received, where it stated, right at the bottom, that a cheque was paid in….  Darn.


The US FBI has ranked South Africa sixth and seventh on the cyber-crime predator list, which means that there is an increasing amount of fraud being committed from within the country.  In fact, in 2017 almost 20% of South Africans were affected by cyber-crime.  Of these, almost 50% were affected by local threats – ie, by our own people from within our beloved Mzanzi.  Additionally, when it comes to passwords, 40% of South Africans store these insecurely, while 15% use the same password for all accounts.

This means that we are falling for the clickbait, we are eager to ‘claim’ that prize, and we do believe that foreign Prince who wants to share his millions with us.


At least five massive cases of cyber-crime took place locally in the recent past.  Institutions such as Liberty, ViewFines, the Master Deeds Office and Ster-Kinekor suffered data breaches.  Millions of South Africans’ personal data was compromised.  A host of honest, innocent people will still pay the price of stolen identities, bank details, and much more.

Scamsters are clever, and they evolve all the time. New ways of making honest people part with their money are being developed daily.  Here are a few examples of scams:

  • Banking related fraud. This includes phishing schemes, visiting a spoofed banking website that resemble a verified websites or receiving bogus SMS notifications of deposits and withdrawals from an account.
  • How many of us have received an email (or emails) claiming that SARS owes us money? Or the ‘Bank’ that claims there is something wrong with your account? Not to mention the millions that some good Samaritan wants to share with you.
  • Social media scamming is also on the rise. Shared that Facebook post that will donate $1 for each share or like?  It’s a scam.  Entered a competition on Facebook to win that lovey car? Another scam. Many fraudsters impersonate famous brands on social media to give their scams some authenticity.  Even WhatsApp is being used to scam people.  People are lured to share fake discounts or competitions to entice users to click on a link. The message then gets shared across the platform from friend to friend but clicking on it will install malware onto your device that can access your personal and banking details.
  • Advance-fee fraud where Internet users are tricked into making upfront payments for products and services. Examples include prize and lottery winnings and various other opportunities that never materialise.  Beware of online classifieds and fake online stores.
  • The “cold calling technical support scam”. Fraudsters call an unsuspecting victim, claiming they are from a reputable computer or software company and that they need the victim to “sort out a problem” with their PC.  With remote access, the scammer loads malware and harvests the victim’s banking details.


It is nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive list on how to prevent being scammed. In general, the following guidelines may help:

  • When buying items or services face to face, consider the following:
    • Think, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Find out as much as you can about a specific company or contractor before you accept their services. Online consumer forums are useful platforms for information on how reliable a service provider has been.
    • Don’t be bullied into an agreement. If a person comes across as too desperate, or if you don’t feel comfortable with their approach, rather reconsider.
    • Ask the contractor for any certification or licences to prove they are indeed registered and able to do the job.
  • Online phishing scams:
    • Again, think. No one will share his or her millions with a total stranger.
    • If you feel uneasy, do not click on any links. In fact, always check the URL and logo for legitimacy. Call your bank if you feel uncomfortable.  Remember, the bank will never send you an email asking you to verify your details.
    • Register for SMS notification services from your bank.
    • Conduct a credit check on your name at least once a year to check for any unusual activity. . TransUnion, for example, offers an annual credit report check that includes SMS or email alerts if there are any transactions (e.g. loan applications) in your name.
    • Always use strong passwords and change them regularly.
    • Use a trusted browser like Chrome because it blacklists malicious and phishing websites by default.
    • Never store credit card info on a browser, online stores or apps.
    • Never click a link you receive on email, SMS, WhatsApp or social media. Instead, type the official URL straight into your browser.
    • The Google Play Store has apps posing as security apps so pay attention to what apps you are downloading.
    • Never put your credit card info into an online store that is not secure or does not offer encryption – look for a picture of a lock on the browser, and the URL should be prefixed with “https”.
    • If someone claims to have completed an incorrect EFT into your account, phone your bank to confirm.
    • Always back up. Should your device be lost, stolen or fall victim to a ransomware attack, you have a copy of your data.


We all must remember numerous passwords every day.  For many the solution is to use one generic password for all online access.  Stop!  You are making it easier for hackers to access your online assets.

Use a strong unique password for every online asset.  ‘12345’, ‘letmein’, ‘admin’, your birthday or your spouse’s name are not good enough.  Use a reliable password generator to create a strong password.  Lastpass is a good password generator and it stores your passwords securely. It also comes as a Chrome extension.  Check it out here


Cyber-crime and Scamming are a reality of the connected world.  Vigilance and self-discipline, mixed with a little bit of ‘don’t trust anyone’, will go a long way in protecting you from falling victim to scams.


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