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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Police alert: Online banking fraud in Gauteng a rising concern

There has been a worrying rise in online banking fraud in Gauteng, prompting a call for heightened vigilance from Saps.

The South African Police Service (Saps) is urging Gauteng residents to remain vigilant since several online banking fraud cases are under investigation at the Douglasdale police station.

Saps said in a statement on Sunday the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ushered in a new era of e-commerce platforms like online shopping and banking.

Rising trend in online fraud

While these platforms have revolutionised our daily lives, they’ve also given rise to a dark underbelly of online bank fraud.

Being spurred by fear and panic about the safety of their money, several South Africans have fallen victim during the past few months, Saps said.

Investigations at Douglasdale station

Douglasdale police station is currently investigating several cases of online fraud – all of which have surfaced recently and share distressingly similar stories.

The scammers operate with a clear modus operandi: they dupe unsuspecting victims into transferring substantial amounts of money following a questionable call or SMS.

The fraudsters pose as bank employees and contact victims to “warn” them about suspicious transactions on their accounts.

The victims, who mostly reside in Gauteng, share their banking details, paving the way for the fraudsters to siphon off large sums from their accounts.

Report criminal online activities

Gauteng’s police force is appealing to community members to arm themselves against these online banking scams.

Remember, bank employees will never ask for personal information over the phone or through an SMS.

If you suspect any criminal activities, Saps says it’s your civic duty to report these to your nearest police station, the SAPS Crime Stop hotline at 08600 10111, or anonymously via the Saps App.

Essential tips for staying safe online

Being smart about online safety can go a long way in protecting you from scams:

Secure data transfers:

Ensure data transfers are secure by looking for padlock symbols on websites. This might seem like a small detail, but it plays a crucial role in your online safety.

The padlock symbol, typically located in the browser’s address bar, signifies that the website uses encryption to secure data transferred between your browser and the site.

Ergo, any information you leave on the site (such as your name, address or credit card detail when shopping) is protected by the site and less likely to be intercepted by fraudsters.

Always ensure the padlock is present and the web address begins with ‘https’ before entering sensitive data.

Stick to familiar brands or shops

The beauty of the online marketplace is being spoiled for choice. But while it may be tempting to explore new stores offering enticing deals, it’s best to stick to trusted online shopping sites.

Only do online transactions with businesses you know and trust, or established brands and shops with secure payment systems in place and a reputation to uphold.

In case of any disputes or issues, these trusted entities also have more robust customer service procedures, further safeguarding your interests.

Unauthenticated sites

While the internet is full of exciting places to explore, not all sites are safe. Unauthenticated sites – those without secure ‘https’ in their URL or missing the padlock symbol – are more susceptible to hackers.

These sites may not have robust security measures in place, making any information you share potentially at risk.

Such sites may also host malicious software created to harm your device or steal your information.

Never share sensitive details via email

While email is a convenient mode of communication, it isn’t the most secure for sharing sensitive information such as credit card details.

Email servers can be compromised, and communication between two servers can be intercepted, putting your sensitive information at risk.

Never share sensitive details through email, and if a bank or other entity requests this information via email, consider it a red flag since it’s a common tactic employed in phishing scams.

Always communicate sensitive information through secure, encrypted platforms, or better yet, directly with your bank or financial institution.

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