With the December holidays upon us, it is easy for many of us to throw caution to the wind and enjoy a much-deserved break of fun, sun and shopping with the family. However, South Africans are reminded that fraud is still very real, and tends to peak during this time of year.
This is according to Christo Snyman, director at Mazars in South Africa and president of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI) – Western Cape Chapter, who says that consumers are particularly vulnerable to financial losses as a result of fraud during the December holidays. “This is why it is vital that we all take the time to increase our awareness of fraud tactics and to know which warning signs to look for.”
With this in mind, Snyman has compiled a list of some of the most common scams to look out for this holiday season.
The Holiday Scam
Fraudsters often advertise affordable holiday accommodation and packages online, offering limited space on almost sold out or almost fully booked reservations. They will encourage consumers to call or email them, and will often send beautiful pictures of the supposed accommodations to their mark. Victims will then be encouraged to make a 50% deposit to secure your place. All the while, you are unaware that a lot of other people have also placed a deposit for the same fake package.
Be wary of these criminals and plan your holidays with reputable service providers. If you do fall victim to a scam like this, report it to the nearest police station. It may be near-impossible to recover your money but reporting them will assist others from falling prey to the same scam.
Fake Travel Agencies
Fraudsters can create high quality websites that offer amazing (almost too good to be true) packages. For these deals, they often take on-the-spot payments from hundreds of tourist, and then close the site when they feel they have stolen enough. More often than not, they will establish another site and start over again.
As a precaution, make sure that the travel agency you use is a member of the Association of South African Travel Agents) or IATA (International Air Transport Association (ASATA). These are professional bodies that will assist you should anything go wrong.
During the excitement of the festive season, fraudsters are counting on you to be distracted when you use an ATM. There are a number of ways that you can be a target at the ATM.
Card swapping can occur when criminals distract you with a seemingly credible reason while you enter your pin. They could then swap your card to access your cash from another ATM while you are confused as to what happened to your card.
Card skimming can happen at an ATM that has been tampered with. A secondary card reader and camera are placed on the ATM and criminals gain access to your information and clone your card. This type of scam can also happen at other point-of-sales. Do not ever let your card out of your sight.
Inspect any ATM of foreign objects before you use it, and stay away from ATMs that are in dark quiet places. If you have been defrauded, contact your bank immediately to stop your card.
Contactless Bank Cards
‘Tag and Go’ is very convenient, especially in these times when we want to reduce touching of shared surfaces. If you enable this function on your card, make sure it never leaves your sight. If you do choose to enable this function on your card, remember to always keep your card in-hand and that you always tap the point-of-sale device yourself.
Also make sure that you register for your bank’s notification service to raise an early alert if and when an unauthorised transaction is processed on your account.