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Cyber crime becomes prominent in SA

Read time 2min 40sec

The surge in volumes of mobile devices in SA has meant increasing numbers of South Africans are enjoying wider access to the Internet. But it also places consumers at greater risk of becoming potential victims of financial scams.

This is according to Kevin Hurwitz, CEO at Wonga.com SA, who says cyber crime is becoming an increasing problem globally, and is becoming more prominent in SA as more people become connected.

"As a result, it is imperative that people are aware of how to identify scams, in order to avoid being financially defrauded," he says.

The RSA Anti-Phishing service recorded a total of 1 942 new phishing attacks in SA for the first half of 2012, equating to an estimated financial loss of R71 million. In addition to this, the Symantec Intelligence Report for June 2012 identified SA as the second-most targeted country globally, with one in 170.9 e-mails identified as phishing attacks.

"It makes sense that South Africa has become a significant target for cyber criminals, as we have the largest Internet connectivity on the continent," says Hurwitz.

Hurwitz explains that various scams are used by criminals to illegally obtain personal information - such as bank account details, ID numbers, passwords and usernames. These are often sent electronically by individuals posing as legitimate entities, in order to conduct financial fraud.

"Consumers are fooled into providing personal details, or depositing money into fraudulent accounts, based on the assumption that these communications are authentic."

Hurwitz says there are currently two primary channels used to conduct what is known as 'advance fee scams', namely e-mail and SMS. "These communications are designed to look real and can easily trick consumers into financial losses."

He says anyone receiving an unsolicited e-mail or SMS which appears to come from a legitimate source, but requests personal information, should contact that organisation directly to verify that the communication is authentic, before taking any action. Consumers who potentially fall victim to these scams are likely to ignore warnings about phishing, because they do not generally transact online, so do not believe the warnings relate to them.

According to Hurwitz, another popular type of scam currently doing the rounds involves people receiving an SMS (or e-mail) claiming they have won money, but in order to receive the funds they need to send their banking details, or deposit money into an account. "No official organisation would ask for personal details in this manner, or request money to be deposited in order to receive a prize, so everyone should immediately be suspicious of this type of communication.

"With the number of innovative scams growing on a monthly basis, it is imperative that consumers are more vigilant about verifying any communication relating to financial matters before giving out personal information or making payments. After all, it is their identity and financial well-being they need to protect."

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