Every precaution should be taken by both individuals and businesses in guarding their finances against cybercriminals. Photo: Robinraj Premchand

DURBAN - Nobody is immune to cyber attacks and hacks in today's technologically-evolving world and every precaution should be taken by both individuals and businesses in guarding their finances against cyber criminals.

Cyber crime is a global phenomenon and one in which criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Following a recent spate of attacks on businesses in South Africa, Al Baraka Bank Chief Executive, Mr Shabir Chohan said, "Cyber crime is a clear and present danger and we all - businesses and private individuals alike - need to be constantly on guard. This is the down-side of the 4th Industrial Revolution and is something we must collectively take extremely seriously".

Increasingly, businesses which hold high levels of customer data, including those in the retail, leisure and financial sectors, as well as small to medium-sized business owners and private individuals are at risk of being targeted.

Chohan warned that increasingly private individuals were coming under fire by cyber criminals, gaining access to email address information so as to lift personal information.

"Such activities enable the criminal element to make numerous small gains very quickly and it is advised that both individuals and business owners move to protect themselves by learning more about cyber crime and what criminals are looking for when hacking. We should all be armed with the knowledge and skills to ward-off potential cyber attacks on email addresses and other personal information, so safeguarding our financial assets," added Chohan.  

Common current scams include the fraudulent change of bank account details, phoney deposits and false requests for refunds.

Chohan said, "Always be extremely circumspect about the changing of bank account details. Confirm any change of banking details with someone who usually deals with at the organisation concerned before making changes to beneficiary accounts. When calling an organisation to confirm banking detail changes, one should use a number from the telephone directory and not the number on the letterhead or fax, as this will, in all likelihood, be the fraudster's number".

With regard to refunds, imposters will often make a fraudulent deposit and then request a refund of the difference. In many instances, the service provider reviews records, notes the extra payment and refunds the 'over-payment,' only later realising that the original deposit had been reversed, the result of having been made with a fraudulent cheque. It is important to wait for all cheque deposits to be cleared before making the goods on sale to a depositor.

"Equally, no 'refund' should be made without verifying with the bank that the deposit made into one's account is valid," added Chohan.

Chohan said, "Tips to avoid being scammed include being circumspect about websites and ensuring that you are on a secure website by clicking on the security icon on the browser to ensure that the URL begins with 'https' and not 'http.' Offers of really cheap goods offered on mobiles or the internet are very often too good to be true, so be ultra-cautious and avoid becoming a victim".

He also recommended that people register for 3D Secure, ensuring the improved security of bank card details, and also warned people not to click on any link requesting confirmation of banking or personal details. Many banks, Al Baraka Bank included, have in place secure payment methods, such as 'Site Verified by VISA' to process 'Card Not Present' online transactions.

"The global threat of cyber crime is becoming ever more refined and advanced, and is evolving rapidly, making it all the more necessary for extra vigilance by individuals and business owners in the defence of their financial well-being," concluded Chohan.

Shabir Chohan is the Al Baraka Bank Chief Executive

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE