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SA consumers warned of fake sites, false deals and bogus calls this festive season

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’Consumers should beware of fake sites, which look like authentic companies, false deals with massive discounts or promotions, or even fake calls claiming to be from their bank.’

File image: Pixabay

CONSUMERS beware! Fake sites, false deals and bogus calls are rife this festive season, the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) has warned.

“Consumers should beware of fake sites, which look like authentic companies, false deals with massive discounts or promotions, or even fake calls claiming to be from their bank,” the institution said.

“The holiday period is a goldmine for criminals who see multiple opportunities to catch unaware shoppers, particularly online. Cybercriminals are ready to exploit blind spots during the festive season.”

SAIA Insurance Risks general manager Pamela Ramagaga, said criminals have also targeted those working from home where company IT security protection is not in place, leaving staff and companies exposed.

“During lockdown, cybercrime increased. The most common methods used were phishing, ransomware, spam, and cyberbullying. Lately, cybercriminals have infiltrated WhatsApp numbers and are scamming unsuspecting individuals through the messaging app,” she said.

“The public should be vigilant and exercise caution, for instance getting unfamiliar e-mails with links and attachments, where the user will try opening the e-mail attachment which may be infected with a virus. The virus has the potential to shut down entire systems.”

Ramagaga offered these tips to avoid falling victim to holiday scams:

Look at the website’s address, or URL. If it starts with “https” it is a secure site; the “s” stands for secure.

Look for grammar mistakes and see if there is contact information on the site. A phone number, address, or other verifiable information can show it is a legitimate business.

Be especially careful if you spot offers in your social media channels that look too good to be true, it’s most likely a trick, not a treat.

Don’t wait for your statements to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card and cheque accounts. Look for any fraudulent charges, even originating from payment sites. Always keep track of your purchases online, and you will know straight away if there are any anomalies in your account.

Use strong passwords that are a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols eg, [email protected]%. Most accounts require an eight-character password, and 12 characters for e-mail and financial accounts. Avoid using the same password for several different accounts.

Use strong authentication tools such as two-factor authentication for key accounts like e-mail, banking, and social media — especially if you are using your mobile devices.

Be careful what you share. Think about what you post because it can last a lifetime.

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