The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) encourages consumers to consider taking extra care in protecting their identity this festive season. Criminal activity tends to increase considerably over the holiday season. It is also often a time for criminals to take advantage of consumers through several cybercriminal activities, including identity theft. Online shopping offers a vast amount of options where people enter their personal and financial information into online payment platforms and complete transactions at the push of a button.
There are several benefits of online banking and shopping for consumers, among others, not having to contend with other drivers for the congested road networks and the inconvenience of standing in shopping mall queues. Through online shopping and banking, one has the convenience of transacting in the comfort of their own home or office. However, this convenience comes with its own risks and does not fully protect one from falling victim to online criminal activity. In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Risks Report 2019, “massive data fraud and theft” ranked the number-four global risk over a ten-year horizon with cyber-attacks in the fifth place.
Susan Walls, SAIA Technical Advisor, says: “It is imperative that consumers exercise extra care when it comes to electronic or online purchases, as this is where a great deal of identity theft normally takes place, both online and in store.” One very common method cyber criminals use is phishing, whereby criminals try to gain access to consumers’ personal information by sending them pretentious emails, text or links to try and prompt consumers to provide personal details such as account information and pins. Another method gaining traction is the interception of emails whereby criminals change the banking details on invoices. This occurs after the email is sent by the sender but before the recipient receives the electronic invoice.
According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), “Another scam that criminals are still deploying is to trick people into paying for holiday accommodation that doesn’t exist. This scam sees criminals preying on people’s anxiety about booking a last-minute holiday. Victims are lured with what seems to be a really good deal, pay for the holiday in full and are then unable to make further arrangements with the agent who has simply disappeared.”
Walls says that “consumers should take an active approach in protecting themselves from cyber-attacks. A useful starting point for consumers is to take time to scan through their online profile such as social media accounts and search engines ensuring that there is no information shared that criminals can make use of such as birthdates, work and home addresses or announcing planned vacations.”
Consumers should register for SMS or email notifications to alert them of any purchases taking place. “Also, closely monitor bank accounts and credit card activity throughout the holiday period just in case an anomaly is picked up. Ensure that the websites logged into are secure and always log off after completing purchases” Walls added. SAIA has put together some basic tips to assist consumers with protecting themselves this holiday season:
- Never share personal information unless you have verified it with your insurers, banks, etc and only provide this information under legitimate situations.
- Avoid using internet cafés to do your banking, purchases and bookings.
- Update and change your passwords regularly.
- Destroy documents containing personal information.
- Educate yourself on the different kinds of fraudulent trends and practice being vigilant.
- Ensure that your computer firewall and anti-virus software is updated and of good quality.
- Lastly, should you suspect that you have been a victim of cyber-crime contact the relevant service providers such as insurers, banks, etc. and follow up by reporting it to the police.