Avoiding Festive Season Fraud

With the festive season being synonymous with more transactions, especially as people typically have more money at this time of year, the greater the probability there is of fraud occurring. In fact, according to PwC’s Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, South Africa has the third most incidents of economic crime in the world behind India and China. “This festive season, I believe that there will be an uptick in fraud, unless South African consumers and businesses are more security conscious,” says Nicho Bouma, Chief Information Officer at Pay@ – a leading bill payment aggregator offering secure payment solutions.

He continues: “More people have been forced to enter the digital space this year, due to the COVID-19 crisis. With many being new to the digital experience, they can easily fall prey to schemesters.” To prevent consumers from becoming victims of cybercrime, he urges them to only use well-known digital channels when making payments such as a banking site or app, trusted payment portal or  mobile payment apps like SnapScan and Masterpass where strict security protocols are in place.

For those who are nervous about using online channels over this time, he suggests that they make their payments at retailers like Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, Pep, and others. “This way, they can pay using cash or a card and won’t have to worry about exposing their card or banking payment details when paying their bills.”

Bouma also encourages consumers to carefully scrutinise their bills and to look out for subtle differences such as misspellings, a blurred logo or one with slightly different colours; the inclusion of different banking details; or a different email address with small changes (.com or .org instead of .co.za). “Often, people fall for scams where the service provider has supposedly changed their bank account number. If you are in doubt, call them to confirm the details on your account.”

Unfortunately, consumers aren’t the only ones at risk of becoming victims of fraud, with 60% of South African businesses reporting that they have experienced fraud and/or economic crime within the past 24 months[i]. With this in mind, he advises businessowners to be extra vigilant at this time of year. “By using a payment aggregator for example, businessowners – and their customers – are able to receive real-time payment confirmation regardless of the payment option used and can have the settlement of these payments guaranteed. Additionally, payments are supported by detailed transaction-level reporting. By reconciling the data received from our network at the end of each day, our clients receive a daily report of the previous day’s transactions before 8AM – helping them to keep an eye on their commercial activity.

“Small and medium enterprises such as plumbers, electricians, and artisans can also benefit as Pay@ and some other payment aggregators enable these businessowners to issue invoices that incorporate a ‘pay now button’ or a QR code, meaning that clients can pay them on the spot.”

Bouma concludes, “While it has been a tumultuous and tiring year, I beg consumers and businessowners not to let their guard down this festive season. Sadly, 2020 has impacted a number of people financially who, in their desperation to survive, are turning to crime. Be safe and security savvy!”

[i] https://www.pwc.co.za/en/assets/pdf/global-economic-crime-survey-2020.pdf