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SA records massive jump in impersonation attacks

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 06 Jul 2022

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has sounded warning bells on the uptick of impersonation crimes, as fraudsters prey on their victims through phishing, smishing and vishing.

SAFPS, a non-profit organisation preventing fraud as a result of identity theft and impersonation, released the latest statistics yesterday, cautioning South Africans on the rise of fraud in the first five months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

“This is particularly concerning given the economic climate that we are currently facing,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, CEO of the SAFPS.

“Consumers are facing a significant cycle of high inflation and are looking for ways to make ends meet. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to scams and schemes, which are being carried out by highly-motivated, highly-skilled fraud syndicates.”

In the period under review, SAFPS says, impersonation increased by 264% for the first five months of the year compared to 2021. This could be linked to recent major data breaches, it notes.

Some of SA’s top organisations have been victims of cyber criminals in the past few months. Dis-Chem, TransUnion and Experian are some of the entities that have been attacked.

Dis-Chem became the latest South African entity to fall victim, with an incident emanating from its third-party service provider resulting in data of over 3.6 million South Africans being compromised.

TransUnion was a victim of a hacker group that demanded a $15 million (R223 million) ransom after it accessed 54 million personal records of South Africans.

Experian suffered a similar attack, which some personal information of as many as 24 million South Africans and 793 749 business entities exposed to a suspected fraudster.

“The various data breaches have all highlighted the vulnerability of personal information and how easily accessible they are to the motivated criminal,” says Van Schalkwyk.

According to the SAFPS, Gauteng, SA’s economic heartbeat, had 62% of the country’s total fraud incidents. The number of fraud incidents that were recorded in 2022 increased by 117% over the number of incidents reported the previous year.

KwaZulu-Natal contributed 18% of the fraud incidents in 2022 and the SAFPS points out the number of incidents reported this year increased by 106% over those recorded in 2021.

“The interesting statistic for the SAFPS is the increase in the Western Cape,” says Van Schalkwyk.

The Western Cape made up 8% of the country’s total fraud incidents and there was a 133% increase over the number of fraud incidents reported in 2021.

The SAFPS also cautioned of forged documentation and money mule fraud, as it recorded an increase in these crimes.

The risk of money mule fraud, which is the misuse of retail banking accounts through fraudulent activities, increased by 97% over instances recorded in 2021.

“This is a significant problem and not only limited to South Africa,” says Van Schalkwyk. “Money muling is a significant global risk. Reports from Cifas in the UK point out that money muling funds illegal activity such as money-laundering, terrorism and human trafficking. Obviously, this is concerning, particularly within the South African context.”

Van Schalkwyk urges the public to remain as vigilant as ever and be very protective of their banking details.

“The person in front of you may be a person who is in genuine need. However, they may also be fraudster.”