Beware the 'money bomb' and other festive season scams

15 November 2018 - 06:00 By philani nombembe
The festive season is prime time for criminals who know there is more cash around and that holidaymakers have their defences down.
The festive season is prime time for criminals who know there is more cash around and that holidaymakers have their defences down.
Image: 123RF / Glebstock

The SA Banking and Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has warned the public not to let their guard down during the festive season as criminals are on the prowl.

Something as improbable as a social media account could let criminals into your bank account, experts warned at a festive season awareness briefing in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Kalyani Pillay, CEO of the organisation, said criminals were getting sophisticated - and their tentacles now extended to social media.

"Criminals are masters of social engineering and know just how to exploit human vulnerabilities to perpetuate crimes, particularly over the festive season when victims tend to let their guard down," said Pillay.

She said Sabric had seen an increase in the number of social media profiles being hacked. Criminals either took control of the person’s account by hacking into it or by impersonating the victim.

“The criminal posting as a victim fabricates a tragic story and sends a message to their contacts requesting money. The victim’s contact then unknowingly transfers money to the criminal," she said.

Pillay said incidents of people being followed from ATMs and banks remained high this time of year as people were drawing more cash. Bonuses and stokvel payouts also increased, making more money available. She advised the public not to carry large amounts of cash but to use other payment methods.

"Bank clients are falling victim to fraud at ATMs, where criminals distract them.

"Do not accept help from anyone, even they purport to be bank staff," she said.

In some cases, a scammer will use a "money bomb".

"The criminal drops a roll of paper covered in genuine bank notes near the victim after they have transacted at an ATM. The criminal then approaches the victim and suggests going to a remote location to "share the money".

"At the remote location, the victim is robbed, often violently."

Pillay urged people not use the same username and password for their banking and social media platforms. Also avoid sharing or having joint social media accounts, she advised.

"People should not click on links in unsolicited emails nor share confidential information over the phone. Banks do not request such information telephonically," Pillay said.

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