Despite numerous warnings from banks, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) and media based messages the Ombudsman for Banking Services reports that it is continuing to receive complaints on a daily basis from consumers who were deceived into providing their confidential banking information to fraudsters. “Just a couple of years ago, the most common scam was the phishing emails. This seems to have been overtaken by vishing scams (fraudulent phone calls),” says Reana Steyn, Banking Ombudsman. In just these past few months, the OBS recorded more than 640 new fraud complaints that were received despite daily warnings about these scams.
“What is very clear from the cases that have been received and investigated by the OBS is that anyone and everyone can be a target. However, the devastation caused by these scams to elderly citizens and pensioners (some of the most vulnerable members of society), is beyond heart-breaking,” says Steyn. She added that in many of these cases, it is not possible to recover any of the funds which have disappeared. The result of this is that an already vulnerable group of people are left without any recourse. “This often leads to destitution. While this fraud may be crippling to a person who is working, at least they have an opportunity to rebuild their savings. We have had cases where an elderly person’s entire pension is stolen due to the fraud and there is no way, or time, for an 80-year-old pensioner to make up the loss.”
“Unless the money is stolen at the bank or lost through the fault of an employee or a technological glitch at the bank, it is ultimately up to consumers to do all they can to protect themselves by staying informed about banking scams,” according to the OBS. It once again urges consumers to always be very critical about the person at the other end of the line asking for personal details to be shared. If in doubt, go to or call your nearest branch and speak to a consultant who will clarify the request for you if it is legitimate.
According to OBS, the Covid-19 Pandemic has been a major global disrupter. Statistics show that in many markets around the world, consumers are prioritising their health and safety over their need to conduct physical transactions, be it purchasing groceries or transacting at their bank. This trend has been replicated in the South African market to a large extent.
“With the exponential rise in online transactions as opposed to in-branch transactions, vishing scams have become one of the preferred methods for fraudsters to steal bank customer’s money. It must be pointed out that these individuals are very believable and are so convincing that consumers are lulled into a false sense of validity (that the request is legitimate) which then leads to the fraud taking place,” says Steyn.
The possible stories behind these scams are endless. In one case, a 69-year-old pensioner received a call from a person (fraudster) who claimed that they were from the bank. He was advised that the bank was in the process of stopping unlawful transactions that had been made from his account. The fraudsters requested the OTP that had been sent by the bank which the pensioner gave them. An amount of R10000 was stolen from his account.
The pensioner complained to the OBS and in this instance, despite being 100% at fault for the loss, the bank considered him a vulnerable consumer.
As a gesture of goodwill, the bank gave him a full refund and educated him about the various types of fraud. The bank further assisted him with downloading the bank’s app on his phone to improve the security measures in place to prevent this type of incident.
A few months later, two more instances occurred:
- He received a call from fraudsters and was persuaded into processing a transaction of R26 500 from his banking app. He reported the matter to the bank and his profile was blocked.
- He received another call from the fraudsters a month later and again disclosed his confidential banking details resulting in R5 500.00 being stolen from his account.
- While the bank declined to refund the R26 500, through the OBS’s investigation, it was discovered that the last transaction should not have been successful as his profile was supposed to be blocked. The bank agreed to refund the full amount of the last fraudulent transaction (R5 500).
“We need to stress the fact that the fraudsters are extremely sophisticated and convincing con-artists. It will be foolish to think that you will immediately see through the scam unless you are 100% clued up on these matters,” Steyn concludes.
Click here to access more case studies that demonstrate the typical modus operandi of the fraudsters as well as OBS tips on how to protect yourself from a vishing scam.