Cape Town - Police say they have bust a gang in Maitland suspected of the little-known smishing, a form of fraud using SMSes and e-mails in identity and card theft.

Five suspects are to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (Safps) said a number of major credit providers reported a total of 14 320 cases of fraud last year.

The Maitland suspects, aged between 26 and 32, were arrested on Wednesday after a tip-off about suspicious activity at a house in Kings Road, Brooklyn.

They allegedly sent SMSes and e-mails requesting payment details, using letterheads of a different companies. Police spokesman FC van Wyk said that when officers arrived the suspects tried to get rid of evidence by throwing cellphones out of a window.

“Two laptops, 16 cellphones and various documents with ID numbers and bank details belonging to different people were confiscated from the house. On further investigation of the laptops, police found letterheads of different companies and organisations, as well as proof of payment e-mails on them,” he said.

Carol McLoughlin, Safps executive director, said “a significant 23 percent” of the 14 320 cases reported last year were victims of impersonation.

She said corruption and lack of education made people vulnerable to fraud.

South African Banking Risk Information Centre spokesman Bongani Diako said identity and card theft were still on the increase, despite prevention and awareness campaigns.

“Smishing, which is a form of fraud using SMSes and e-mails, is not as common as the increasing rate of fraud on the internet. Identity and card theft is still a big problem in the banking industry. But the public don’t understand the scale of how this can affect them,” he said.

Diako said credit card fraud was one of the main reasons for the banking industry’s financial losses.

Consumers have been warned to:

* Be alert when using ATMs.

* Put passwords on all your accounts and do not use easy words such as your mother’s maiden name.

* Not carry your birth certificate, identity book or passport unless necessary.

* Not give personal information when someone you don’t know calls. If they tell you they are a credit supplier with whom you have an account, call them back at that company’s number.

To report incidents of card or identity fraud, contact the Safps helpline at 0860 101 248, Crime Stop confidentially at 08600 1011 or SMS Crimeline at 32211.

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Cape Times