17 August 2022

By Al Qalam Correspondent

Criminals are cashing-in on increased online shopping, banking and payments by consumers, the consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al Baraka Bank’s Chief Executive, Shabir Chohan, has issued a clear warning: “Consumers, and particularly those new to online transactions of any kind, really need to be on their guard, carefully protecting their personal information against cyber criminals now and into the future.”

His cautionary comment follows incidents reported by bank clients who have been the subject of attempted scams.

Chohan said: “It is clearly evident that fraudsters are taking advantage of COVID-19 regulations and their impact on society to intensify their cyber crime activities, as we are learning of increasing numbers of incidents with many more people having turned to the online environment for the first time.

“We have seen a distinct upturn in online activity by clients and, because of the convenience factor, this trend is likely to continue in spite of steadily relaxing pandemic lockdown levels, culminating in Level One, which became effective on 01 October 2021. The public behaviour change has clearly prompted increased cyber crime levels and consumers need to ensure that they enhance security around their personal information and data so as to prevent identity theft and actions designed to defraud them on various online platforms,” Chohan stressed.

Chohan stressed that while electronic advancement was to be embraced, the age of technology had the ability to trip-up the unwary.

“It is important to be aware that with technology, your personal data is at risk, unless properly safeguarded to prevent criminals accessing it as a means to defrauding you of your money,” he added.

Digital crime and data breaches are likely to represent a significant and continued threat to customers and banks into the future.

Speaking of the continued threat, Chohan said: “Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly brazen and convincing in terms of preying on, especially, vulnerable and uninformed members of society, gaining their personal information and then exploiting that information to either steal identities or gain access to the finances of individuals.”

“Regardless of how believable an email communication – known as phishing – or a caller on the phone – called vishing – may appear, never click on a button to confirm your bank details or provide your information verbally. A bank will never request your personal information over the phone and legitimate organisations will not ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money.”

In the face of intensifying criminal action by scammers, Chohan encouraged bank clients and the broader public to apply tips issued by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC).

SABRIC, of which Al Baraka Bank is a member, is an NPF company formed by South African banks to support the banking industry in combating crime.

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The following tips, issued by SABRIC, are designed to enable consumers to become their money’s best protection by safe-guarding personal information.

•Do not use the same username and password for access to banking and social media platforms;

•Avoid sharing or having joint social media accounts;

•Be cautious about what you share on social media;

•Activate your security settings which restrict access to your personal information;

•Do not carry unnecessary personal information in your wallet or purse;

•Do not disclose personal information such as passwords and PINs when asked to do so by anyone via telephone, fax or even email;

•Do not write down PINs and passwords and avoid obvious choices like birth dates and first names;

•Do not use any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) as a password, user ID or personal identification number (PIN);

•Do not use Internet Cafes or unsecure terminals (hotels, conference centres and the like) to do your banking;

•Use strong passwords for all your accounts, change your password regularly and never share them with anyone else;

•Store personal and financial documentation safely. Always lock it away and keep PIN numbers and passwords confidential;

•Verify all requests for personal information and only provide it when there is a legitimate reason to do so;

•To prevent your ID being used to commit fraud if it is ever lost or stolen, alert the SA Fraud Prevention Service immediately on 0860 101 248 or at www.safps.org.za;

•Ensure that you have a robust firewall and install antivirus software to prevent a computer virus sending out personal information from your computer;

•When destroying personal information, either shred or burn it (do not tear or put it in a garbage or recycling bag);

•Should your ID or driving licence be stolen, report it to SAPS immediately.

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