The internet has changed the way we live our lives. While it has greatly improved our ability to access information and made everyday tasks such as banking much more convenient, there are also plenty of downsides. For instance, the damage caused by social media in terms of mental health is just starting to be explored; but perhaps the biggest detriment of all is the ever-present risk of fraud we are now exposed to.
In South Africa, instances of online fraud are increasing, both in terms of their number and their level of sophistication. Currently, cybercrime costs South African consumers around R1bn a year, with the country one of the top targets for cybercriminals in the whole of Africa.
Different types of cybercrime
Not only is cybercrime an ever-present threat, but it also comes in many different forms, making it increasingly difficult for online users to identify and avoid. Phishing scams, where consumers are sent unsolicited emails, texts and even phone calls purporting to be from legitimate organisations, are one of the most common types of cybercrime. Such is the extent of the problem that personal loan lender Wonga have produced a guide to help their customers recognise the difference between real and fraudulent messages.
Other examples of cybercrimes that are particularly prevalent include online purchase credit card fraud, also known as ‘card not present’ fraud, where goods and services are bought over the phone or online using stolen credit card information. SIM-swap fraud is another example of a cybercrime on the rise. In this case, criminals order a new SIM card in a consumer’s name and effectively take over their mobile phone and access the sensitive information they contain.
So what can you do?
According to a leading IT security strategist, the biggest cause of cybercrime is ignorance. You must be proactive in reducing the risks you face and recognising the signs of a scam. You should never give anyone personal information such as an ID number, bank card details or PIN numbers by email or SMS. Reputable companies will only ever ask you for these details over the phone or in-person.
Other steps you can take to protect your personal finances include:
- Keeping personal sensitive personal information safe at all times;
- Changing your passwords regularly and using passwords that contain a mixture of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols;
- Using a different password for every account you have online;
- Keeping your computer’s operating system, web browser and software up to date;
- Making sure your antivirussoftware is up to date;
- Never opening suspicious emails or attachments;
- Reviewing your bank statements regularly;
- Shredding any financial documents you throw away.
Have you been the victim of an online scam? Were your personal finances affected? Please share your experiences with our readers in the comments section below.