Bank clients in South Africa lost about R21 million in the first six months of this year to robberies, with 695 incidents reported, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) said this week.

The organisation says it is concerned about the number of people who fall victim to cash robberies daily.  

The highest number of incidents, 382, were reported in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State.

Sabric’s statistics show that, between 2014 and June 2017, robberies resulted in 27 deaths and 69 injuries.  

Kalyani Pillay, the chief executive of Sabric, says perpetrators typically follow victims to their place of residence or work, or a place where it is easy to rob them.

“The modus operandi of using a spotter is quite prevalent. Their sole purpose is to identify victims who have made a cash withdrawal. They communicate the victim’s description to accomplices, who wait outside the bank. These accomplices follow the victim and rob them of their cash,” Pillay says.

“Spotters” are individuals who enter a bank purporting to be clients – even joining a queue to give the impression that they are clients. 

Criminals are also targeting stokvels. According to Sabric, between 2014 and June 2017, 50 stokvel robberies were reported. Most (82%) of the robberies occurred in November and December 2016. Of these incidents, 54% occurred in Gauteng and 24% in KwaZulu-Natal.  

Pillay says consumers, business people and stokvel operators should be vigilant when visiting banks and take precautions to protect themselves.

“It is shocking that bank clients, who are the victims of these crimes, are killed and injured during these robberies. This is why we encourage bank customers to find safer ways to transact instead of carrying large amounts of cash. Not only do criminals target consumers, but they are also targeting business owners who deposit or withdraw large amounts of cash.”

How to reduce the 
risk of being robbed:

For individuals:

• Carry as little cash as possible;

• Do not disclose that you are going to the bank; and

• Pay your accounts electronically via your cellphone, your bank’s website or an ATM.

For members of  stokvels:

• Avoid depositing members’ contributions on high-risk days, such as the Monday after month end;

• The person who deposits contributions or makes withdrawals should be accompanied by another club member;

• Arrange for members to deposit contributions directly into the stokvel’s account; and

• Transfer payouts electronically into a member’s account.

For business owners:

• Do not fall into a pattern that criminals can easily recognise. Do not visit the same branch at the same time on the same day of the week;

• Do not display money or your deposit receipt book while you are standing in the bank queue;

• Do not carry money bags and briefcases;

• Do not pay employees in full view of the public;

• If the amount of cash you are depositing is increasing as your business grows, consider using the services of a cash management company; and

• Transfer wages directly into employees’ bank accounts.

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