Over recent years, many South Africans have lost money after being taken in by advanced fee scams. An advanced fee scam is a hoax where you are promised access to a large sum of money as long as you pay a deposit first. Someone may trick you into paying an advanced fee to access a loan, an inheritance, an investment opportunity or money you are told you have won in a competition. Criminals may also ask you for help with transferring a large amount of money out of the country.
How common are advanced fee scams?
Over a five-year period, more than 5000 advanced fee scams were reported to the South African Reserve Bank. 22% of South Africans using e-banking services were taken in by scams in one year. Almost a third of these were advanced fee or 419 scams. A 419 scam is a type of advanced fee scam. In a 419 scam, someone is encouraged to send money to a stranger in exchange for a larger sum that never materialises.
Common scamming techniques
If you are asked to pay a fee to access money or some financial services, you may be being scammed. Once a scammer receives your payment, chances are you will never hear from them again – unless they ask for more cash. Scammers use a range of channels to seek out their victims. These include email, text, phone calls, WhatsApp and social media.
Fake loans, competitions and emails
Scammers may attempt to dupe you by promising you a large loan with no credit checks or an incredibly low interest rate. They may tell you that you’ve won a competition that you don’t remember entering or may inform you that someone you don’t know has left you an inheritance. Some scammers pretend to represent well-known companies. Famous lender Wonga’s brand image was used without permission by criminals several years ago as the front for an email and sms scheme of authentic-looking messages that look just like genuine correspondence. However, when you check the email address it may look strange or bogus.
Emails can seem very authentic
Another tell-tale sign is when a scammer refers to you as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ rather than your name. However, some scammers will address you by your name. The correspondence you receive may also have spelling and grammatical errors, though this isn’t always the case. Some correspondence can seem very authentic indeed, which is why so many people fall for it.
What you need to do
It’s vital to ignore any correspondence you receive if you do suspect someone is trying to scam you. Don’t even respond to say you believe the message is bogus – inform the police immediately instead. If you do believe someone has targeted you with an advanced fee scam, contact the police by sending a message to [email protected]
Scamming during the pandemic
Criminals have been targeting unsuspecting members of the public via a number of methods during the global pandemic. In 2020, British banks revealed some of the most common techniques being used by criminals recently. Scammers have recently been sending out fake government emails offering Covid-19 support grants. However, links inside the emails may steal your personal and financial information. Emails offering Covid-19 relief fund access have also been circulating. Authentic-looking emails offering reductions in household bills have also been in circulation. Again, these are designed to obtain your personal and financial information.
New scams emerging
Many people have received fake emails telling them they have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus. Once someone clicks a link inside the email, they may be taken to a fake website and asked for personal information. The website may also infect your computer, tablet or phone with malware. Fake adverts for products like hand sanitizer and face masks have also been found online. Once the victim sends their payment for these items, they don’t receive anything at all.
It’s essential to stay on top of the latest online scams to avoid being parted with your money. New scams are being launched all the time, so remain as vigilant as you possibly can.