Beware of scammers looking to take your hard-earned cash and private information, warns Momentum Metropolitan’s cybersecurity team.

The reality is that fraud and scamming is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Southern African Prevention Service (SAFPS), fraud impersonation increased by 337% in 2021, and crypto and Ponzi schemes cost South Africans more than R54-billion.

Technological protective measures may be sophisticated, but so are fraudsters’ methods to scam you.

The festive season was the most wonderful (and expensive) time of the year. Scammers were busy taking advantage of seasonal spending with fake online stores, phantom hotel bookings and bogus deliveries. We hope you did not get caught out, but we want to remind all consumers to keep on being cautious.

Perpetrators are skilled at their craft, employing countless tactics such as phishing emails or texts to trick people into disclosing financial and sensitive personal information. The impact, as a result, goes well beyond financial loss, ending it being an unfortunate and traumatic experience.

The Momentum Metropolitan’s Cyber Security Team has found that scammers are sneaky and opportunistic criminals who always take advantage during busy seasons such as the festive season, Valentine’s Day, back to school, early in the year or when job hunting.

Being skeptical can help keep you safe. Continue to question everything and always double check, especially when a situation feels too good to be true.

Protecting yourself from both fraud and scams requires vigilance and awareness. Momentum Metropolitan’s Cyber Security team offers these tips to help people stay safe:

* Educate yourself: Learn to recognise common fraud and scam tactics to protect yourself online. The media, watch-groups and companies are continually reminding consumers to be alert.

* Authenticate information: Always verify the legitimacy of people or companies requesting access to personal information or money. Contact the company directly to check if you are dealing with them.

* Secure your devices: Use strong, unique passwords (or, even better, passphrases) and keep your devices and software up to date to reduce vulnerability. Password123 is not a good password.

* Be skeptical: Question unsolicited offers, requests, or deals that seem too good to be true, and do your research.

* Research businesses: Before making online purchases or investments, research the credibility of the company. Check online or trusted review platforms for complaints or compliments about a company.

* Monitor your bank statements: Regularly review your financial statements and credit reports for any unusual or unauthorized transactions.

* Stay safe on social media: Be cautious about accepting friend requests from strangers, avoid quizzes that may be used to hack your account, or calls asking personal questions and report dubious activity. Most channels, like Facebook have a reporting option.

* Job hunt securely: Research potential employers and be mindful of unrealistic job postings. Do not meet at private residences or apartments, opting for public places like their offices or a coffee shop. If they say they will pay for your travel costs, make sure they pay upfront.

To protect yourself from scams, you need to be aware of what a scam can look like. While they can sometimes be difficult to spot due to improved impersonation skills by scammers, there are red flags that South Africans can keep an eye out for, and these can include:

* An offer of an incredible way to make or save money, at much higher interest rates than banks, with pressure to act quickly so you don’t miss out.

* Someone you haven’t met requesting your help or money, often by telling you heartbreaking stories with no actual proof of need.

* The message contains links or attachments which you must open and enter certain personal details into, which allows the scammers to send you to a fake website or steal your information. Always verify the authenticity of the website, with the company yourself.

* You’re asked to pay in unusual ways, such as via Bitcoin, preloaded debit cards, etc. Reputable companies will never allow deposits into personal bank accounts.

* They encourage you to open a new bank account to be able to pay you, or to have you pay them.

By understanding the consequences scammers can have on you and your finances, and how seductive and sophisticated they can be, you are better equipped to boost your own cybersecurity measures.