Take extra precautions when banking or shopping online

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

Experts call it the season of madness, when you have to exercise extra caution when you shop or bank online.

While it is the season to be jolly, you need to be more vigilant when banking and shopping because criminals are at their most active at this time.

Itumeleng Monale, self service channel director at Standard Bank, says consumers often get so wrapped up in the joys of the festive season that their banking habits change, making themselves vulnerable to fraudsters.

Monale says: "It's not only ATM crime and credit card fraud that increase over the festive season, but also phishing attacks and Internet fraud. All of these are easily combated by taking a few basic precautions."

l Avoid banking in Internet cafes or hot spots.

l Never follow hybrid links. You should only access Internet banking by typing the web address, for example, www.standardbank.co.za, into the browser.

l Never respond to unsolicited e-mails requesting personal information. The bank will not ask customers to divulge account numbers or passwords online. Never disclose your ATM personal information number (PIN), customer-selected PIN (CSP) or password to anyone.

l Sim-swapping is also becoming a problem. If a client loses a cellphone and thieves get them to divulge their account details, they can use the cellphone to get the one-time password.

l Check your bank statements regularly to identify any erroneous or criminal transactions that might have been performed on your account without your knowledge.

l Use the security features introduced by the bank to make sure that you have a safe and secure banking experience.

l If in doubt, contact your bank for help.

Monale says that while it is important to adhere to these basic security measures, the volume and nature of threats has increased.

"Fraudsters are increasingly using small hand-held card-skimming devices to gather the details of credit cards at restaurants or in shops, which they use to make duplicate cards or for Internet purchases," he says.

He advises consumers to always remain vigilant when paying for services with credit cards.

"As far as possible, ensure that your credit card is always visible to you when making a transaction," says Monale.

Standard Bank also urges people to follow a few basic pointers when shopping online:

l Ensure the company is reputable. Find an address and phone number for the company.

l Ensure the site is secure. Look for signs of security on the site. Symbols like an unbroken lock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and a URL that begins with https:// means that no one but you and the merchant can view your payment information.

l Keep a record of your transaction.

l You should never send your credit card information via e-mail. Information that travels over the Internet as mail is not fully protected.

l Never disclose your ATM or any other PIN to the merchant. Your secret PIN should never be shared with anyone.

l Register for MasterCard SecureCode or Verified by Visa. This is an added security feature provided by MasterCard and Visa.

On ATM security tips, Monale advises the following:

l Only use ATM machines in a well-lit, high-traffic area. If the lights aren't working, don't use that machine.

l Stay alert. Look out for suspicious-looking individuals or circumstances. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and leave the area.

l Have your ATM card for your transaction ready and in your hands. Opening your wallet or purse can be time consuming and also provides a potential thief with easier access to your valuables.

l Never disclose your PIN to anyone and be sure to shield the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN. Rather memorise your PIN and never write it down.

l Be wary of strangers who offer to help you - even if you are experiencing difficulty with your transaction.

l Don't allow others to distract you while you're banking.

l Make sure you get the correct card back from the ATM after your transaction.

l Don't count or expose your money after your transaction.