As the holiday season creeps closer, FNB is urging customers to take extra care with protecting their personal banking information, handbags and wallets so as to avoid falling victim to fraud.

Whilst many South Africans are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to relax and unwind, fraudsters and criminals are sharpening up on their skills to get information that will allow them access to personal banking details and funds.

“The golden rule when it comes to transacting safely, whether online, in store or at an ATM is to keep your PIN safe and private at all times,” says Henk Vermeulen, Fraud Specialist at FNB Credit Card.

According to research done by FNB and VISA in 2013, one in five people believe that it is not necessary to cover the PIN pad when keying in their PIN at an ATM or point of sale device. This is a contributing factor to the increase in counterfeit card fraud losses affecting all card issuers during 2013.

The combination of crowded stores and many distractions make the job of fraudsters that much easier. Shoulder surfing (when a person looks over your shoulder to see what PIN you are keying in) becomes almost unnoticeable in busy malls and a small bump in a shopping mall corridor or at a flea market might seem harmless until you realise your purse or wallet has been stolen.

If personal banking PINs and usernames are stored on your phone or written on paper and kept it in your handbag or wallet, a stolen handbag, wallet and/or phone could mean that money disappears from your account before you are aware that your belongings are no longer in your possession.

“Even though card skimming and cloning remain a prominent way in which customers are defrauded, those who are linked to the web can be sure to expect an influx of clever e-mail scams and convincing fraud tricks that aim to gather personal information,” says Vermeulen.

Thankfully, vigilant customers can easily contribute to keeping their funds safe. In order for a fraudster to gain access to your funds, a series of card compromises needs to take place.

Card skimming takes place when the card owner is distracted and not paying attention. The card is drawn through a small device that reads the magnetic strip of the card and stores the personal information. This can happen in stores at a point of sale device or at ATMs.

Next the fraudster has to get the PIN so that they can gain access to the funds. This is done either by shoulder surfing or through small cameras that are installed in such a manner to see the keypad of the ATM or point of sale device.

Once the fraudster has seen the PIN, the card is cloned, the magnetic strip info is placed on the cloned card and the card can be used to access the funds in the account.

A few safety tips include:

* Always keep your PIN safe – without your PIN a fraudster cannot gain access to your funds;
* Cover your hand when keying in your PIN at an ATM or point of sale device;
* Memorise your PIN and do not give your PIN to anyone, not even a family member;
* Do not write your PIN down and store it in your handbag;
* Do not store you PIN on your cell phone;
* If you think your PIN is no longer secure, change it immediately;
* Do not let your card out of your sight. Ask for the point of sale device to be brought to you when you are making a payment;
* Be aware of the position of the retailers CCTV cameras and ensure you cover your hand when keying in your PIN; and
* If you are withdrawing money at an ATM and the machine swallows your card, remember to contact your bank immediately to stop your card and all cards linked to that account.

“FNB customers can also log on to Online Banking and cancel lost or stolen cards by clicking on the ‘cards’ tab and clicking on ‘cancel card’ next to the card that needs to be cancelled,” concludes Vermeulen.