How to avoid holiday fraud and scams

5 Dec

Being a victim of holiday fraud can be unsettling and can have a negative impact on your budget. During the build up to, and over the festive season, you are likely to be spending more and will probably be busy and distracted. This makes you the perfect victim for opportunistic criminals.

According to Nitesh Patel, the head of Customer Financial Solutions at Standard Bank, “prevention is better than cure” and we couldn’t agree more. To protect yourself this holiday season, be aware of the following scams which are already doing the rounds:

Holiday Accommodation Scams

Your attention might be caught by an enticing online advert for holiday accommodation which includes pictures on social media platforms. Interested parties are invited to call or email to make a reservation. Once your particulars are seemingly taken, a booking deposit is then requested and your accommodation is booked. Or so you thought! As soon as the deposit is paid, the person dealing with the booking does a disappearing act.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Ask for the personal particulars of the owner including a copy of their ID
  • Ask to meet at the property if you are able to (even if you can’t, there is no harm in testing this one out) – scammers will usually say they don’t have keys to the property.
  • Research the establishment to confirm that it actually exists. Fake holiday homes will usually have free websites and be advertised on free portals.

The Fake Travel Agent Scam

If a deal through an online travel agency seems too good to be true, it usually is. If you feel pressured to pay on the spot for an outrageously good deal, it’s probably a scam. These scammers usually collect holiday deposits and then a few weeks later they shut down their website and start a new one.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Ask for the ASATA (Association of South Africa Travel Agents) and IATA (International Air Transport Association) numbers and check that they actually exist. Spend some time searching the internet for feedback and complaints about the travel agency.

The ATM Scam

There are numerous ATM scams to be aware of. The first is card swapping where a criminal gets your attention while you are inputting your pin. In the meantime, your card is swapped with another. Card skimming is also a popular one where criminals fit a card reader over the ATM’s original reader. This is used to hijack your card number and PIN.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Take a close look at the ATM to ensure that it doesn’t look tampered with
  • If the machine swallows your card, call the bank from your own phone immediately to cancel it
  • Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN
  • Don’t allow yourself to be distracted – by anyone!

The Identity Theft Scam

If someone is able to gain enough of your personal information, they may be able to use your name to open accounts or even make purchases on your credit card. It can be extremely hard to recover from identity theft.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Never throw out documents containing your personal information. Tear up the documents so information cannot be seen.
  • Never use the same password for all your accounts and make sure that your passwords are strong. Don’t use passwords that are easy to guess.
  • If you receive an email or SMS asking you to respond with personal information to update your account details, do not respond and do not click on any of the links included. Contact your bank directly to inform them of the communication. A bank will never request personal information via email or SMS.
  • Don’t allow all of your personal information to be visible on your social media accounts. The more that people can find out about you, the easier it will be for them to steal your identity.
  • Individuals can carry out one free credit check on themselves each year. It’s a good idea to do this to ensure that no unauthorised accounts have been opened.

Unfortunately, many South Africans are complacent when it comes to fraud. When scammed, many cut their losses and simply pick themselves up and move on without reporting it. This is the incorrect approach. It is important to ensure that the authorities are made aware of the scams as they happen.

Always report instances of defrauding to the police. The SA Fraud Prevention Service can be reached on 0860 101 248.

If you have any more tips and advice for a happy and safe festive season, please feel free to share them with us! We would love to hear from you.

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