In 2023 thousands of cybercrime and fraud emails trickled into Business Report’s email, warning of the escalation in these activities, yet despite this, I still ended up being phished.
Being a financial journalist and having run many “how not to be scammed” articles didn’t prevent me from falling for an online scam.
However, in my case, there was no financial fallout, unlike most cases where people end up being conned out of their hard-earned cash.
I fell victim to phishing in the pre-Christmas rush to buy gifts.
Venturing outside my online comfort zone
I normally do the usual Takealot, Loot.co.za, etc, but I decided at my daughter’s urging to broaden the net and use Shein, which is further afield. (Yes, I know I am an online shopping dinosaur compared to the savvy shoppers out there).
Now thousands of people buy from Shein with no problem.
Where did it go wrong? I didn’t quite know what I was doing.
So I had an email from Buffalo Customer Service saying my delivery was about to be dispatched, which was legit.
But then later that day I had a phone message purporting to be from DHL I had to pay R56 for my delivery or I would not get a package.
Due to the unfortunate timing, I thought it was connected with my Shein delivery, but of course, it wasn’t. There also would have been a tracking number.
The scam was a fake DHL message with a link one clicked to open to fill in one’s credit card details.
All I could think of was my child’s face if her Christmas gift didn’t arrive, so emotion and not intelligence led me to click on that link. In the worry over securing the gift, I forgot the cardinal rule of never clicking on a hyperlink and then entering my card details.
However, Lady Luck was at my side in the form of a friend visiting from the UK, who had avoided the same DHL scam and whom I happened to tell that I was irritated to have to pay more for a delivery a minute after entering my card details. She raised the red flag.
After my friend’s timeous warning, and the blood rushing to my head in fear that money would disappear from my bank account, I got hold of my bank about 5 minutes later and they cancelled not only my cards but my digital profile.
I told the bank what had happened and they warned me that one should never click on any message with a link from an unknown source.
I got off very lightly compared to most people.
All I had to face was the irritation and the time it took me to get my bank cards and online banking back.
However, I was so relieved that no money had left my account and that fortune smiled on me in the form of my friend’s warning, otherwise, I would have been oblivious to the fact that I was phished and would have given the cybercriminals time to access my account.
Later on, I went back to the fake DHL message and then compared it to the real site. It looked official but was different from the real online site. I then tried to click on some of the links and it didn’t work.
Scams are very sophisticated and it is easy to fall for them. One tends to feel a bit like an idiot, but it is just a type of learning curve of hard knocks toddler style.
Then at a BR Xmas lunch, my colleagues shared the joys of other online scams and how you need to look at URLs, and if some items are cheaper than normal you have to be wary, also look through tons of online reviews to try to spot the fake websites.
I got off with a warning in this instance, but a good friend of mine has not been so lucky. She has fallen prey to trying to buy a puppy online, which looked official and they sent photos and more, but it ended up being a scam. (Apparently, cute puppies and scams are rife online!!!)
Another time she also bought what she thought were cheap airline tickets and car hire. Hallo! Scam alert - if it is too good to be true, it too is usually a scam.
As a result, she is now super cautious and does a ton of research and reads reviews before any online shopping.
Unfortunately, with the era of artificial intelligence, fraud next year and in the future will go into even higher gear with deepfakes and so on. Securing one’s digital identity and not falling for scams will become harder.
This will not deter me from trying new things. There is no way I am going to let fear stop me from the joys and convenience of online.
While dinosaurs' cause of extinction on Earth may still be open to scientific debate, I plan not to become one. So onwards and hopefully clicking safely into the evolution of consumerism.
Standard Bank’s tips to avoid scams:
Types of scams to avoid:
New types of scams continue to emerge in which fraudsters lure you into providing confidential info – often via email, SMS, phone calls, malware, or remote access. Anyone can be a target.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to stay informed about scams and think twice before sharing your personal details online or over the phone.
It could be a scam if…
– What you are offered or promised sounds too good to be true
– The offer takes you by surprise, or the prize relates to a competition you never entered
– You’re given limited time to confirm your details or win the prize, catching you off guard
– You receive the information via a free email address (like Hotmail, Aim, Yahoo or Gmail)
– You are promised large sums of money for very little or no effort on your part
– You’re asked to provide money upfront, for whatever reason, to receive the money or prize
– You’re asked to confirm personal or account details via a hyperlink, icon, or attachment in an email or over the phone