Falling prey to online scammers is easier than you might think, with scams becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Falling prey to online scammers is easier than you might think, with scams becoming increasingly more sophisticated and less blatant than the now well-known “Nigerian prince” emails that clog our spam folders.

According to the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), reported incidents of digital banking crimes increased by 75 percent between 2017 and 2018, amounting to a total of R262.8 million lost in digital, mobile and app banking crimes last year alone.

Cyber criminals are becoming smarter in their attempts to steal and will use technology in conjunction with social engineering to try to defraud people. Here are just some of the many scams you need to be aware of, so you can start protecting yourself and your information online.

Phishing is one of the most common forms of online scams that uses email as a platform to scam people. Phishing is designed to trick you into clicking on malicious links that can result in malware being installed on your computer or device, or manipulating you into divulging login details for email, social media and bank accounts. This often takes the form of an email that looks like a legitimate and professional communication from a trustworthy source, except for a few small and easy-to-miss details that tell you it’s fake.

Vishing, or “voice phishing attacks”, occurs when fraudsters pose as bank officials or service providers in order to trick people into disclosing personal and sensitive information over the phone, giving criminals access to your bank card details, mobile banking apps and online banking profiles. Your bank will never call you and ask you to share information such as your account details, user name or passwords over the phone.

SIM-swop fraud occurs when criminals convince your mobile operator to switch your phone number over to a SIM card that they possess. Once they have control over your phone number, they are able to receive mobile money transactions, or collect the home banking one-time passwords to complete a transaction. If your phone loses connectivity for an extended period, don’t assume it’s your network. Phone your service provider and make sure there hasn’t been a SIM swop on your account.

Trying to avoid scammers can leave you feeling powerless - what do you do to protect yourself? Sabric acting chief executive Susan Potgieter says practising smart and safe online behaviours (such as not logging into your internet banking at internet cafes or on public Wi-Fi networks, and never giving out your confidential information to anyone) are key, adding that your best line of defence is to ensure all your passwords are strong and secure.

“It’s important not to use details such as your birth date and name as passwords, as these are easily accessible to criminals and scammers, particularly if you ever happen to lose a licence or ID card,” says Potgieter.

Try to make your passwords as complex as you can, including upper case and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols, and always keep them to yourself. Ensure all your accounts have different passwords and user names

Stay safe from cybercrime by changing your password regularly and keeping informed of the latest scams.

Sabric has created a safe and secure password tester to help you find out. Test your password strength here: https://becyberstrong.co.za/