South African companies that regularly communicate and interact with their customers by e-mail should introduce digital signatures to their bulk messages in order to authenticate them to their intended recipients.

That’s according to Cordell Brewer, marketing director at leading email marketing firm TouchBasePro who highlighted the recent warning by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) concerning an increase in phishing attempts aimed at local Internet users.
Brewer says incidences of phishing are becoming increasingly commonplace and ever more sophisticated.  Companies should take steps to protect their valuable brands and even more valuable customers against these scams that attempt to abuse their brands, he added.
SABRIC’s data reveals that the number of phishing web sites targeting local bank clients that have been detected and shut by the banks more than trebled over the tail-end of 2010 and the first months of 2011.
Though fake e-mails are often sent in the name of one of the country’s big banks, they are increasingly targeting other institutions such as the South African Revenue Service.  Some fraudsters are even targeting the clients of small businesses such as property rental firms, says Brewer.
They gather as much information as they can about such companies and then send official-looking emails or letters – accurate down to the logo, address details, and so on – to clients informing them of a change in banking details.  This often tricks unsuspecting recipients into depositing money into a scammer’s bank account.
While the major banks have their own in-house systems to authenticate their e-mails to their clients most smaller companies do not have this technology at their disposal, says Brewer.