It's the end of a stressful year. People are desperate, and online scammers have become bolder and smarter. As more business and communication is conducted online, there’s a greater opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting people. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to be aware and think carefully if something seems fishy. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And, if someone asks you to share personal or financial information, question it thoroughly before giving anything away. We all want to switch off and go into holiday mode. But that's exactly what online scammers are hoping we do. Here are a few of the most common online scams to be aware of this holiday season...
Top online scams to look out for…
Facebook giveaway scams
At this time of year, online giveaway entries tend to increase. Let's be honest, we'd all love to win a well-deserved holiday or extravagant gift hamper. But, as legitimate companies and well-known brands offer more Facebook giveaways, it gives fraudsters the chance to mimic their pages. Here, scammers lure you in with out-of-this-world giveaways and 'phish' your personal and financial information in the process. Stay safe this holiday season and make sure any competition you enter originated on a Facebook-verified company page.
Card Not Present (CNP) fraud
Hello online shoppers! As more of us embrace the convenience of online shopping, scammers have figured a way to separate you from your cash. CNP fraud has become common and relates mostly to illegitimate online purchases. Your card details may have been acquired through phishing or data breaches and, if a purchase can be made without the physical card or the cardholder's permission, anyone can buy anything online using your details. When conducting online transactions, make sure it's on a reputable site - ones that ask for an OTP. And, never give credit card details in an e-mail or SMS. This holiday season, keep a close eye on bank statements, too.
In the last five years, over 5 000 of these scams have been reported to the South African Reserve Bank. Also known as advanced fee scams, these 419 scams have become a problem. Unsuspecting individuals are lured into paying an advanced or upfront fee, before allegedly getting money, goods or a service. You’ll be tricked into paying, without ever getting anything in return. Beware of people offering to secure you an investment, or pay you money from a deceased relative. Advanced fee scams also include winning money from a competition you never entered – having to pay a small amount before you can collect your winnings. In situations like this, always read the fine print and make sure the company name and e-mail addresses match up.
Fake holiday accommodation
There's nothing worse than excitedly arriving at a holiday destination only to realise it doesn't exist. Or that you've paid the wrong people and your booking was never made. With everyone keen to travel after a long lockdown, these scams could become even more common. When you’re booking a holiday, make sure it’s with a reputable company or through a registered booking agency. Scammers set up fake websites, sometimes with real holiday homes or apartments, and ask you to pay the whole fee upfront. If a spot looks super cheap with loads of availability, it's probably too good to be true. Every year, travellers are cheated out of their money and have to head home feeling downright miserable.
A pedigree puppy
Keen to get the kids a puppy this Christmas? Think twice before paying anything less than the going rate for a proper pedigree pet. They tend to come at a price. If, somehow, you’ve found one on an obscure website at a fraction of the usual cost, ask more questions. Because it’s easy to find pictures of puppies online, the ‘breeder’ website might look professional. But scammers will ask for a hefty sum upfront. Then possibly for a bit more to cover alleged travel or kennel costs to get the dog to you. Wherever you say you live, the breeder will be located far away. So you won’t be able to visit your puppy before you pay. Once the payment has been made, that’s the last you’ll hear from them. Check out scam alert groups on Facebook and do loads of internet research before paying for your pooch.
Contact the South African Fraud Prevention Service if you think you've been a victim of an online scam. And stay safe out there this holiday season!