When times are tough, scammers come up with creative ways of persuading South Africans to part with their hard-earned cash, warned online classified advertisement and community website Gumtree.
“It’s more important than ever to stay alert,” said Gumtree Brand Manager, Estelle Nagel.
Often, when we’re in a desperate financial situation, we’re at our most vulnerable. Scammers know this and offer free cash or suggest that their bank accounts are being threatened to push victims to divulge sensitive information.”
Here are just five of the most common scams doing the rounds at the moment and how to beat them:
1. The “Hey, It’s Me” WhatsApp scam
With this scam, the scammer sends a WhatsApp to a random number stating: “Hey, it’s me. I’ve dropped my phone in the loo so this is my new number.” (Sometimes they vary this scam by saying, “Hey, Mom, it’s me”.) The victim will reply trying to guess the identity, e.g. “Thando? Is that you?” The scammer won’t communicate for a few days or even weeks, but will eventually send a message requesting money for urgent car repairs or an Uber ride. Thinking it’s their loved one, the victim makes payment.
How to beat the scam: “Always call the number or message your loved one’s last known number to confirm their identity. Don’t divulge any personal information while interacting with this person, or provide a fake name to see if this person affirms the fake identity.”
2. Debit order scam
During this scam, the victim receives a phone call, supposedly, from their bank’s fraud division, informing them that up to R200 has been debited from their account every month for the last year. The “bank” offers to sort it out but requests that the victim confirms their identity and bank details for security purposes, e.g. asking for the debit card number or the security code at the back of the card. Often, scammers will steal bank statements from post boxes to seem more legitimate as this enables them to supply the correct name, address and partial account number.
How to beat the scam: “Thank the caller for letting you know, hang up and contact the fraud division of your bank immediately. This is usually a toll-free number. They’ll be able to confirm whether or not the call was legitimate.”
3. Fake proof of payment
If you love buying and selling on Gumtree or any other online classified advertisement and community website, you may encounter a fake proof of payment from time to time. This usually looks very legitimate, sent as either a text or an email. The email address may even seem legitimate.
How to beat the scam: “Always log onto your internet banking or phone your bank to make sure that the money has cleared in your account before handing over the goods. Sometimes scammers will pay via cheque and cancel it before it clears to seem every more legitimate. If the money reflects in your account, transfer it to a second bank account if possible to avoid reversals.”
4. Fake Facebook job
There have been a spate of kidnappings related to fake job listings on social media platforms like Facebook. Jobs are posted on the site but when the interviewees show up, they are held captive at gunpoint and a ransom is demanded. At other times, interviewees are asked to pay a fee in order to progress their application.
How to beat the scam: “Never pay to apply for a job. If you are granted a job interview, make sure that the interview is held at a legitimate premises (use Google maps to view the property) or in a public space.
Always tell someone where you are going.”
5. Spear phishing
Spear phishing targets a specific person and often uses a known email address or current events to extract money or valuable information from the target, e.g. receiving an email from your boss asking you to purchase Google Play or air time vouchers for them.
How to beat the scam: “If you receive an email from someone you know but the request doesn’t make sense, or is out of the ordinary, pick up the phone and query it. Examine the email address to make sure it matches their real email address before responding.”