Phishing & Email Scams Gain Momentum in South Africa

5 Nov

One would think that will all the awareness campaigns around phishing and email scams, South Africa’s risk profile would be on the decline. As it turns out, it’s not. Email scams and phishing scams are always on the rise and, right now, unsuspecting South African citizens are being scammed. Whether it’s due to ignorance or carelessness, thousands of rand are being delivered into the hands of criminals via online scams.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Being aware of the latest scams and ensuring that you behave safely online are the first steps to take.  Let’s take a look at the latest…

Ministry of Finance Scam

The Minister of Finance recently warned South Africans to be aware of a scam doing the rounds in the first week of October 2019.  The scam involves an email that is sent to thousands of South Africans claiming to be from the Ministry of Finance. The email advised the recipient that there are millions of rand that need to be claimed from the South African Reserve Bank and that the recipient of the email is indeed one of the citizens entitled to do so. To start the claims process, the individual will need to send through their particulars, including:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Occupation (place of employment)
  • Cell phone number

The intention of this fake email is to gather the personal information of the recipient.

The Minister of Finance has spoken out against the scam and asked South African’s to ignore emails of this kind from the Ministry. It’s important to note that the Ministry of Finance will never request personal information via email.

Department of Labour Scam

Another scam that’s taken the South African community by surprise is one targeted at the Department of Labour and aims to take advantage of the desperation of some citizens.

The scam, which is social media-based, involves a fake social media page complete with Department of Labour branding. The page features an announcement that claims certain citizens, who have worked in the country between 1990 and 2019, have the right to claim/withdraw R30 000 from the Ministry of Labour. To do so, individuals must check if their name appears on a list of entitled individuals. The next step would naturally be to provide the “Department” with all their particulars, including banking details so that the claim could be paid out. Once again, a fake email is being used to gather personal information.

The Department of Labour has spoken out against this scam and informed the public that there is no such benefit in place.

Are the Criminals Winning?

Does the steady increase in phishing and email scams in the country, and the world, mean that there are no wins from the cybersecurity community? No, it doesn’t. In fact, that is where the good news comes in. Just recently, the Department of Justice in the United States made a massive breakthrough in Cyber Crime, where 281 email scammers were arrested in a major global sweep.

While South Africa didn’t appear on the list of criminals, South African citizens have undoubtedly been the target of many of these arrested criminals. The Department of Justice seized a whopping 3.7 million dollars during the operation while arresting people from the following countries:

  • Nigeria (167 arrests)
  • United States (74 arrests)
  • Turkey (18 arrests)
  • Ghana (15 arrests)
  • The last seven criminals were located in France, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia and Japan.

As you can see, West Africa is in the lead by leaps and bounds.

Protect Your Own Best Interests

While it might not be possible to shut down every scammer in Africa or the rest of the world, there is a way to minimise their impact. And that is through awareness. Tech users need to become savvy to the prospect of scams and be aware and alert at all times when receiving emails and other forms of communication from people and enterprises they do not know.

If something seems a bit fishy, it is best not to respond, or completely shut down communications. Also, keep in mind that any email requesting personal information over the internet is not considered safe and secure – rather avoid it. If you wish to confirm that it is, in fact, the authorised company or person making contact with you, call the company in question and speak directly to an official representative.

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