Verify before you send cash to your WhatsApp contact

Social media is a breeding ground for money scams

23 January 2020 - 09:01
By Ntokozo Khumalo

Social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, have in recent months become a breeding ground for money scams, with fraudsters taking over people’s accounts to solicit money from their contacts. 

The fraudsters usually request between R500 and R3,000 and, to hide their identity, they ask for the money to be sent as a cash transfer to an ATM from your mobile banking app. 

According to the latest statistics from the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, more than R262m in losses recorded in 2018 were due to online and mobile banking fraud, with almost 23,500 cases of fraud on these platforms reported.

Jeannie Naudé Viljoen, general counsel at TransUnion, says consumers can take back control by being cautious of the type of links they open and sites they visit. 

“It usually starts with scammers luring you in by offering generous prizes or employment opportunities and then asking you to click on a link that appears to be from a legitimate business or from WhatsApp itself,” Naudé Viljoen explains. 

This then allows fraudsters to infiltrate your device with malware which “phishes” your personal and financial details and giving access to your contacts. The fraudsters port your number to a new SIM card on another cellphone network and then send messages to your contacts that appear to be coming from you. 

If you are approached by a person who appears to be a contact asking you to send them money, think twice before parting with your hard-earned money, Naudé Viljoen says.

If possible, ask your contact face to face to confirm if they have asked you for money and verify the account information with the bank before sending any, she says. 

It’s important to keep in mind that if you do decide to send the money via a cash transfer through  internet banking or a banking app, the bank is not liable, Ulrich Janse van Rensburg, head of fraud strategy at Absa Retail and Business Bank, warns.

“If you realise you have been scammed you must report it to the bank’s fraud hotline immediately. At Absa, we can chase and recover the funds if it’s still in the financial system,” he says. 

To prevent being a victim of the scam yourself make use of WhatsApp’s two-step verification process to add more security to your account. Any attempt to verify your phone number on WhatsApp will then need to be accompanied by the six-digit pin you create during this process and this should prevent the fraudster impersonating you after porting your number. 

If you do decide to send  money via a cash transfer through  internet banking or a banking app, the bank is not liable. 
Ulrich Janse van Rensburg, head of fraud strategy at Absa

Also don’t ignore any notifications sent to you by your cellphone provider saying your number is about to be ported. Get in touch with your provider on its general service number. 

You could also add your email address to which links can be sent in case you forget your pin. 

Janse van Rensburg says if you have been a victim of a WhatsApp scam and have to port your number to a new SIM card in order to regain control of it, you should remember that your banking app is linked to your device and not your SIM card. 

However, he recommends you then also download the latest mobile banking app. 

If you do find yourself the victim of a WhatsApp scam and/or your bank accounts are compromised or hacked, you need to open a case of fraud with the South African Police Service, the experts say.

Remember to keep your personal information protected at all times so as not to give fraudsters access to other accounts or allow them to apply for credit in your name.

TransUnion has a service that can help prevent you from being a victim of the scam. TrueIdentity will send you notifications if your personal information is detected on the “dark web”. If your identity is already compromised, a forensic investigator will be appointed to you to help you restore it. 

You can also use the free identity protection service offered by the SA Fraud Prevention Services. Visit their website or call 011-8672234.

TransUnion also has an insurance policy, TrueCredit, that pays a benefit of R250,000 in identity theft insurance to help you recover from financial losses due to identity theft.