Cybercrime costs SA almost R2.2bn a year

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While online shopping might be the easiest way to get your Christmas goodies, it is equally as easy for criminals to scam and con you during the festive seasons, as South Africa’s ranking as one of the world leaders in cybercrimes shows.

According to ThreatMetrix, a risk solutions company, about 50 million global cybercrimes happened over last year’s festive season.

South Africa was of particular concern, as it had the third highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, losing about R2.2 billion a year to cyber-attacks, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) said.

According to Sabric, 13 438 incidents occurred across banking applications, online banking and mobile banking, creating a loss of R250 million last year.

Between January and August this year, however, cyber and digital banking crimes resulted in over a R183 million in losses, with mobile banking increasing by 100%. Online banking scams resulted in the largest loss – R89.3 million – during that period.

“Criminals are masters at social engineering and know just how to exploit human vulnerabilities to perpetuate crimes, particularly over the festive season where they tend to let their guard down,” says Sabric CEO Kaylani Pillay.

Just like planning ahead for festive season holidays, criminals prepare well in advance for their “online shopping sprees”, said head of DialDirect Insurance, Maanda Tshifularo.

“The reasons are easy to understand: there is an increase in online shopping, meaning an increase in credit card and other personal information available for stealing.

“Criminals take advantage of shoppers who throw caution to be the wind and click on links that promise never-to-be-seen-again deals. Click the link and you’ve downloaded malicious software. Your computer or phone is now compromised by criminals,” Tshifularo said.

The most common scams are phishing scams, which are not new, but criminals always find new ways of tricking consumers by taking advantage of the efficiency and convenience of digital platforms.

A common modus operandi is an e-mail sent to a victim, purporting to be from a trusted organisation or bank that the victim has a legitimate dealing with. The e-mail would promise to “optimise” the victims’ user experiences or upgrade their benefits.

Another would be a false e-mail from a bank, which creates fear by claiming there have been fraudulent activities in your bank account. The e-mail is accompanied by a link to a website to report the bogus fraud.

But the fraudulent website, under the control of the criminals, will request banking profile username and passwords.

Tips to use this festive season:

  • Do not use your social media profiles to log into other accounts.
  • Do not click on any random links.
  • Don’t respond to random e-mails claiming that you have won a prize or inherited money. Delete them immediately.
  • Be extra cautious when using Wi-Fi hotspots. Some scammers falsify popular hotspots.
  • Use strong passwords, with a variety of upper case and lower case letters, symbols and numbers.
  • Type in the URL for your bank in the internet browser if you need to access your bank’s webpage.
  • Make sure you are on the real website before using any personal information.
  • If you suspect you might have fallen victim, contact your bank immediately.

Rorisang Kgosana / The Citizen